Friday, April 02, 2010

Clash of Worldviews 

The tail end of a dialogue I had on Facebook (edited for iPhone typos).

Me: The trouble with politics is, sometimes the less you think, the more effecive a rhetorician you can be. Most of us are far too mindful of our doubts and qualifications, especially in subjects we know, to take advantage of the fact that people are more motivated by emotion, appearance amd personal reinforcement than logical and factual argument Hence Sarah Palin and many many other succesfull movement types.

You are in court frequently, right? The only time I've seen trial lawyers in action they were obviously cognizant of these realities. And wow was the judge we had a non-logician.

Peter: My experience with the law in general, and criminal trial practice in particular, has revealed logic to be a false god. Almost any position can be justified logically. Logic is an empty vessel that emotion fills. That is why motivations matter. Remind me if you are ever down here and I will tell you some interesting trivia about antebellum slavery law that makes the point starkly.

I don't doubt that just about any rationalization can be made to look logical. But I actually view logic in a completely opposite light. Logical dissection allows you to remove the emotion around a subject and continue the dialogue in as open-minded a way as humanly possible. If your logic can lead you anywhere, I guarantee there is a problem with your priors, or there are simply normative or factual discrepancies at work.

Characterizing logic as a "false god" seems to me like saying "cars make bad lovers".

My reaction was "Yikes. Or should I say 'fascinating'?


By Anonymous The Truth is Out There, at Fri Apr 02, 03:12:00 PM:

Politics is about building coalitions and in practice is akin to mass marketing. Logic and reason hardly factor. Game theory would say it's unpredictable. YMMV.

Juries can reflect this on a small scale. Just ask Nicole Simpson.

Markets try to be rational, and mostly are. Markets allow for failure, which is necessary for change and ultimately, for progress.

Which is why the current expansion of government is so alarming.  

By Anonymous Mad as Hell, at Fri Apr 02, 03:29:00 PM:

I don't always agree with Rush, but today I do:

"I and most Americans do not believe President Obama is trying to do what's best for the country. Never in my life have I seen a regime like this, governing against the will of the people, purposely. I have never seen the media so supportive of a regime amassing so much power. And I have never known as many people who literally fear for the future of the country."  

By Blogger "Mindles H. Dreck", at Fri Apr 02, 04:27:00 PM:

Well, I dislike many of the administration's "fixes" and aims, but I credit them with positive motives. I think they *are* trying to do what's best, even when they make compromises they themselves think are flawed.

"Bush Derangement Syndrome" was a result of not presuming positive intent (and, let's face it, his policies were expensive in money and lives as well). I understand this attitude works for TV pundits, but I'm not going there.  

By Anonymous What is to be done, at Fri Apr 02, 05:36:00 PM:

"I credit them with positive motives"

E.g., extending healthcare coverage to the uninsured is a noble goal. But not if it breaks the bank.

Who knows what's in the heads of Obama-Axelrod. I've been speculating for two years.

Obama has come close to admitting his admiration for Ronald Reagan. Obama wants to be the anti-Reagan, not just another Bill Clinton.

Lefties of a certain age believe that Reagan purposefully ran up deficits in the 1980s to eliminate the possibility of more social spending. Not to jump start the post-Carter US economy. Not to win the Cold War without firing a shot. But to preclude new federal programs.

The deficits we're running now will necessitate huge increases in taxes and will thus level incomes. The math is actually scary. Thus, socialism won through the Internal Revenue Code without firing a shot. I'd be all for socialism if I thought it could work. Developing .....  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Fri Apr 02, 10:05:00 PM:

There is reason for Peter's cynicism, but he makes into an absolute what is only a tendency. There has been recent evidence suggesting that most of our decisions are made instantaneously, for reasons we know not. We then concoct rationales for these. As that exercise is analogous to playing chess against yourself, you can always come up with a good enough excuse to calm your active mind.

This is not so much a flaw in human thinking as an enormous efficiency that does not apply to every situation. We take shortcuts because we could not accomplish the simplest tasks without them. Thus, 99% of our reasoning is indeed post hoc rationalisation. Slowly coming to realise this about oneself and others can influence one to take the (natural) shortcut and conclude that 100% of our reasoning is cosmetic.

But this is not so. We have some awareness (however dim) when we or others are rationalising more, which is pretty strong evidence that there are times we are rationalising less. Also, human beings do adapt to new data - they are able to admit they have been wrong.

It is a useful exercise to estimate how much of any decision arises invisibly from social, physical, or selfish needs. It is certainly far more than any of us would like to admit. But that is not evidence that all decisions spring from such.  

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