Close-Minded Credulity

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Adrian Rutt

Life is like one of those sand art thingies that gets destroyed after it's completed.

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30 Responses

  1. Avatar Murali says:

    I’d modify clifford’s maxim: It is epistemically irrational always, everywhere and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence. I don’t know that it necessarily wrong to be epistemically irrational.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Murali says:

      @murali
      In what circumstances would you say it is moral to be epistemically irrational, and if one steps outside epistemic rationality how could one reliably identify them?Report

      • Avatar Adrian Rutt in reply to James K says:

        I’m not sure I can even make sense of the term “epistemologically rational” to be honest…Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to James K says:

        There are a whole bunch of metaphysical questions which have basically 0 practical impact which it wouldn’t be wrong to be irrational about. I’m not saying its the morally best thing you could do, it just wouldn’t be morally wrong.

        For instance, as an atheist, you believe that agnostics are responding poorly to the evidence and hence are irrational. After all, they afford far more credence (According to you) to the proposition that God exists, than the evidence warrants. Yet, from the atheist perspective, it would seem strange to think that agnosticism about God is morally wrong.

        Here’s another case. Suppose I really don’t like you and think, irrationally (even though I know that you like money and that you could use it to benefit yourself in many ways), that the best way to harm you is to send you $1000. It is hard to see how my irrationality itself is morally bad. Surely my irrationality is at the very least neutral with respect to or even mitigates the badness of my intentions.

        So, we can clearly distinguish between cases in which there is practical (and thus moral import) and cases which lack such import without having to be perfectly rational all the time.Report

  2. Avatar Kim says:

    Deliberate poisoning of the rationality of the left and right ought not to be confused with “the internet is a mass of lies and deceit.” Particularly because you are then more likely to miss the blatant lies that occur on national television.

    Sadly, you are not a propagandist, and are thus not entitled to an opinion.

    **Neither am I, but I do know the guy responsible*** for SolarFuckingRoadways, which continues to get piles of cash from people who really really ought to know better.

    ***not the bagholder.Report

  3. Avatar Chris says:

    William James’ more sympathetic twist which essentially says that we can believe something if it makes us feel good.

    That is not at all what William James says, about the sentiments of rationality or about religious belief. I mean, it’s not even a remotely reasonable gloss. Sure, he says that there are things that are beyond (the capabilities of human) reason (and, it should be noted, therefore not necessarily true), including moral judgment and religious faith (similarly, “Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. On le sent en mille choses. C’est le cœur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison.”) However, at no point does he suggest we believe things simply because they feel good. This would be a distinctly un-Jamesian position.Report

    • Avatar Adrian Rutt in reply to Chris says:

      Hence the very next line..

      It is true, in any case, that James said much more than we should believe things if they make us feel good about it, and what he said here was said in the context of religious belief—which was not, as some people hastily point out, a defense of holding willy-nilly beliefs. James hated that as far as I can tell.

      My only point was to show that James’ foundation for building a good amount of his philosophy is based on a very psychological, as opposed to epistemological need. People who get James wrong often stay well clear of anything further he said on the subject… which was also my point.Report

    • Avatar Adrian Rutt in reply to Chris says:

      I didn’t want to delve much into the Clifford-James debate, but only hoped to show the somewhat hazy dichotomy between Cliffordian rigidity and Jamesian fluidity… I realize now I fell short in that project!Report

  4. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I remember reading a book called Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me. Then there’s the whole body of literature called “behavioral finance” that describes how human beings aren’t rational even when it comes to simple economic decisions. This work got Robert Shiller a Nobel Prize.

    He got a Nobel Prize for describing rationally how people aren’t rational. This is our world.

    I feel that the philosophers are not as useful in this world I’m describing as the psychologists. And there is a model for how people change – change their behavior, not their opinions. To me, it is behavior that matters, not opinions. They are tied together in a mutually reinforcing system, to be sure. But changing behavior will change opinions probably more reliably than changing opinions will change behavior.

    I have a wealth of practical experience in changing behavior in my experience in learning and teaching martial arts. In my ryu, which is Danzanryu Jujitsu, we spend a lot of time teach people to take good falls. This is foundational, and probably the most practically valuable thing we teach: Many of us have had falls that would have been much, much worse if not for that training.

    I am capable of describing a correct fall in great detail. However, doing so is of little use to the student. It was of little use to me. I could absorb all the information and reproduce it verbally, and my behavior would not change at all. I would still do a crappy fall and it would hurt. That changed because of a process – a process that very strongly mirrors what psychologists call the transtheoretical model (of behavior change). In that model, a bunch of facts and arguments are not endorsed at early stages of change. What is needed instead is to highlight the need for change.

    That is, I would do a bad fall, and sensei would say, “that looks like that hurt”. Or perhaps, “If you were doing that on concrete, it would hurt a lot”.

    I feel we need to be doing that more – point at things and saying, “that looks like that hurt”. I just read a piece on Vox this morning about Kentucky Trump voters who don’t believe he will repeal Obamacare, and hope he won’t because they really need it and like it. So many of the Trump voters thought he was lying about stuff, but not about their stuff.

    We need to be saying “that looks like that hurt” a lot. We need to be saying “this will hurt me” a lot, too. Forget all the logical arguments. Humans are only rational because it makes them feel good to be rational.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      Wow. This is a good comment.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      We need to be saying “that looks like that hurt” a lot. We need to be saying “this will hurt me” a lot, too. Forget all the logical arguments. Humans are only rational because it makes them feel good to be rational.

      What do you do when you tell them that, and they say you’re lying? And when they do hurt themselves, blame you for it because you’re an elitist who thinks they know so much more and clearly feel superior? So they’re gonna do it again harder until it stops hurting?

      Just wait for them to hurt themselves until they can’t take it anymore? What happens when it’s not just themselves they’re hurting, but people around them?Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Morat20 says:

        If you say, in a direct way, “this hurts me” and they say you are lying, move on. Talk to someone else. That is a door slammed in your face. That hasn’t happened to me much.

        However, I don’t ever sea-lion into someone else’s threads with that complaint. If I’m a stranger to whomever I am speaking to, I might well be lying. I might well have some hidden agenda. I might well be a deceiver. You have to build the platform of “us” first.

        And that platform depends on identifying something that you and they have in common. If you can’t find that, walk away. It’s someone else’s work, not yours. But if you have hobbies and interests, those will work fine as a point of commonality, perhaps even as a shared identity.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          I’m just pointing out, large-scale, there was a lot of “those plans will hurt you if enacted” to people who….chose not to believe that.

          Now some of them chose not to believe those plans would be enacted. Some felt the person telling them that was lying. Some probably couldn’t decide.

          I mean take repealing the ACA — there was a piece out today interviewing Trump voters about that, and the two that stuck with me were two people who were very surprised to find out that Trump seems to be wanting to do that. The thing he said he’d do.

          One actually thought the ACA couldn’t be repealed (“They can’t take away my insurance can they?”) and the other couldn’t believe the GOP would do that.

          It wasn’t because no one said “That plan will hurt you”. Lots of people did. They chose not to believe it, for one reason or another.

          That’s where we come back to “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts”. Apparently you ARE entitled to your own facts. Doing so — disregarding facts you dislike and inventing ones you do — will eventually bite you when reality reasserts. (Assuming you ever connect those dots). But on things like the ACA, you’re taking 22 million people down with you.

          You can empathize all you want — but in a world where the very facts themselves bow to your opinions, how can empathy help?

          To use your fall analogy — you’re trying to teach people to fall correctly, except they keep tackling other students to the concrete floor because they’ve been told the mats are actually harder than concrete. Then they blame YOU for having such a hard floor, demand you fix it, and then tackle another student before you can respond.

          Eventually you’ll run out of students or they’ll be too hurt to do it, but in the meantime people are getting bloodied on your floor.Report

          • You can empathize all you want — but in a world where the very facts themselves bow to your opinions, how can empathy help?

            To me that’s exactly the argument for (tactical uses of) empathy. The facts by themselves apparently didn’t work with certain interlocutors. So try somehow starting where they are. Not sure I know how to do that, though.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

              We went over a lot of this last month, but the thing is — I do have empathy for those folks. I’ve got a lot of them in my family. I know a lot of them. I’m quite close to a lot of them.

              (It apparently shocked Jaybird to realize I knew actual Trump voters, people I interact with all the time. Blue collar ones. Rural ones even. Shocker, right?).

              These aren’t faceless people I don’t know, or people I hate. I’d be hating members of my own family.

              And I’m not some weird outlier of a Democrat, either. The Democrats push a ton of plans designed to help people they know won’t ever vote for them.

              They have empathy. They try to reach out, to solve the pressing problems (like the ACA).

              You know the ACA is incredibly popular with conservatives until you tell them the name? There are folks in Kentucky that hate the ACA but love Kynect.

              Which is the ACA. There’s gonna be a lot of unhappy people in Kentucky pretty soon.

              Empathy…never had a chance. You’ve got that “D” after your name? Mind is made up, you don’t even have to open your mouth.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

            morat20,
            sure, they can repeal the ACA. They might even be stupid enough to do it.
            But, i can tell you with certainty who’d be stupid enough to keep the ACA as written, with as few changes as literally possible.
            Hillary Clinton.

            When the system’s broke, sometimes it takes an outsider to have a chance of fixing the problem.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      As an example of what I’m not talking about, here’s Daily Kos telling us to be happy all those coal miners will lose their health insurance.

      Saying, “that looks like that hurt” has to come from a place of empathy, not spite. It won’t work if it’s from spite. Daily Kos is pretty much fueled by spite, which is why I don’t spend any time there, even though we have the same policy goals.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        Daily Kos is currently trying to rally the troops. This isn’t at all fueled by spite.
        Granny Doc routinely posted from the town dump — about the men sitting there.
        There are WV posters on Daily Kos too, and they have worthwhile contributions to make.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      Doctor Jay,
      Two things about Midwestern voters:
      1) They didn’t believe trump. You didn’t believe trump. Not believing trump is the sound decision (because he reverses himself, a lot)
      2) They didn’t believe he was capable of half the stuff he was doing.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      I’ve heard it said that habit begets virtue, not the inverse. We tend to think the inverse.

      “Tomorrow, I will become someone who works out. I will do this by working out tomorrow and every day after. This will happen because tomorrow, when I wake up, I will be Someone Who Works Out.”
      No.

      “Tomorrow, Barry will drag my ass to the gym. The day after that, Susie will. Then, Matt will. Before I know it, I’ll have gone to the gym 7 days in a row… despite not wanting to on one of those days. But then on the 8th day? It’ll be a little easier. By the 9th, I’ll actually want to go. Next thing I know, I’ll be someone who wants to go to the gym because I’ll have become that by actually being someone who goes to the gym.”
      Much more like that.

      We don’t like to admit this is how we work but it seems to be the case.

      We don’t say to little kids, “Be grateful!”
      We say, “Say ‘thank you’.” Even if they can’t really conceptualize gratitude. Done properly — with many other lessons along the way — they become grateful people. And even the ones who don’t are still halfway decent at saying ‘Thank you’.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Kazzy says:

        I endorse what you are saying, and wish to take it a step further.

        Researchers have studied the question of “what can you do to make yourself happier over a reasonable period of time?” They call it an “intervention” and then they assess mood/happiness a day after, a week after, and a month after.

        They find that writing a thank-you note to someone else is one of the most powerful interventions in making the subject happier. Not getting the note, but writing it, makes people happier.Report

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