Why not doing FIML is immoral

Since most people have never even heard of FIML and do not have the opportunity to do it, I can’t truthfully say they are immoral for not doing it. But I can say they are amoral (not knowing) in a way that leads to bad results—results that harm or diminish people.

It is immoral (or amoral) to not do FIML because when you don’t do it you are forced to interpret what others mean or intend and that means to judge them without asking them if your interpretation is right.

Most of us get around this fundamental problem by using semiotic codes taken from the media, a subculture, or other kinds of training to formulate our judgments for us. Semiotic codes are a kind of short-hand for the attitudes, emotions, and beliefs that always underlie conversations. They help us understand each other by standardizing what we say and how we say it. This works well-enough in many situations (professional, formal, etc.) but is ultimately a disaster in interpersonal relationships because it forces us to make many mistakes. It forces us to form many unfounded judgments about each other, while at the same time limiting what we can say and hear.

Some examples of semiotic codes taken from the media might include behaviors learned from TV shows, values taken from editorials or talk shows, attitudes learned from late-night comedians, and so on. Semiotic codes learned in a subculture might be religious, professional, criminal, ethnic, or the hidden codes of a secret society. Other kinds of codes might be ones learned during sports training, pursuing a hobby or interest, or gleaned from books.

You can’t hardly talk without some operative semiotic code. And you won’t be understood if your interlocutor is not at least passingly familiar with your code. And, of course, most of us switch codes frequently depending on circumstances. Semiotic codes underlie communication and are essential for its success, but if they are held unconsciously and cannot be considered or analyzed, they will often prevent really deeply successful conversation. This is why they can be a disaster in close interpersonal relationships.

Semiotic codes generally facilitate the standard views of the groups that produce them. When they are impervious to analysis or reconsideration, all communication beyond that point is blocked.

Is it a good idea or a bad one to base your semiotic code on your imitation of professional actors? Artists? Monks?

Notice how every type of public personality projects a semiotic code, rich with behaviors and values. If I act like a monk, will you think better of me? Which monk? How will you know if I am acting or not?

It’s hard to tell in today’s world because people are so good at projecting codes. Is he really that compassionate or is it an act? Is she really as sure of herself as she seems?

Professional actors are especially good at projecting or embodying semiotic codes. In many ways it makes sense that actors should determine a good deal of how non-actors behave toward each other. But in many ways this is also not such a good thing because you shouldn’t need to be imitating someone or projecting something when you are with your close friends and partners. Furthermore, professional actors spend their lives practicing and are chosen for their parts because they are likeable or are interesting to look at.

For most of us, it’s phony or, at best, only half-honest to base our communications with others on imitations of professional actors, monks, musicians, athletes, and so on. And it is not all that much better to imitate the ordinary people we play softball with on the weekend.

Some of that is OK, but if the role-playing or the semiotic code is taken as “real”, as your real “persona”, a raft of other bullshit is going to come into play. At a fundamental level you will be lying to your partner and yourself because your fundamental being is no longer accessible to either one of you. Instead of being authentic with your partner, you will always be referring back to a semiotic code which is necessarily limiting and never completely true.

If you see what you are doing–pretending to be confident when you are not, say–you might feel phony but justifiably rationalize your actions by recognizing that you really do not know what else to do.

This is where FIML comes in. If you do FIML, you won’t be trapped by the limitations of semiotic code. With FIML, partners have the means to observe and analyze their codes as they are being used. Rather than judge your partner or friend based on your (probably wrong) understanding of their inner code(s), FIML will show you how to ask about their code and how they may be using it. FIML will also show you how to understand their answer.

FIML practice, thus, allows partners to avoid the need we have in most ordinary conversations to make immoral/amoral judgements about what others are saying. I do not believe there is any other way to do this except through FIML practice or something very much like it.

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