Absolutist Thinking, Human Nature, Ideas, Life, Living, Probabilistic Thinking, Thinking

Thinking in Absolutes vs. Thinking in Probabilities

SUMMARY:  There seem to be two basic ways of thinking.  That is, thinking in absolutist terms or thinking in probabilistic terms.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps wisdom consists in knowing when to use one or the other.

(About a 5 minute read)

When I became a fire fighter, I had to change some deeply ingrained ways of thinking.  For instance, growing up, I had thought largely in terms of absolutes.  Something either was or it was not the case.  My teachers were either good or they were bad.  An idea was either true or it was false.  A classmate was either nice or he or she was not.

Yet, few things are absolutely certain in a fire, and absolutely counting on something is a good way to get yourself — or your fellow fire fighters — injured or killed.  In fact, fire fighting requires realism perhaps more than anything else — including courage.  And realism often enough boils down to thinking in terms of the odds something will or will not happen.

That is, realism requires you to largely think in terms of probabilities.  The man in front of you on the hose line is not going to advance.  He is likely to advance.  The nine foot high wall of flames in front of you is not going to be knocked down by your stream of water.  It might be knocked down.  The room is not safe to enter.  It is possibly safe.

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Belief, Cultural Traits, Culture, Education, Free Spirit, Human Nature, Knowledge, Learning, Life, Living, Love, Memes, Mysticism, Quality of Life, Satori, Self-determination, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking, Transformative Experience

New Eyes

SUMMARY:  A look at maximizing our freedom by freeing us from our cultural assumptions so that we might pick and choose which aspects of our culture are of value to us and which aspects are not.  Life experiences (including travel), education, love, and mystical experiences are all considered as means of freeing us.

(About a 6 minute read)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust

My first wife, Jana, was born in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia under the Soviet occupation.  At age 9, she escaped with her family to West Germany.  Two years later, they immigrated to the US.

Her mother and father, both being doctors, were able to send her back to Europe to attend a private Swiss boarding school for her high school education.  After high school, she lived in England for awhile, before returning to the US to attend university, where I met her.

By the time I met her, she was a confirmed traveler.  But travel was much more to her than an exciting adventure.  It was a way of learning new things, new ways of doing and thinking.  Or, as Proust might have it, travel was Jana’s way of gaining “new eyes”.

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Creative Thinking, Creativity, Cultural Change, Culture, Human Nature, Invention, New Idea, Society, Thinking

Creativity

SUMMARY: Being creative may be something some of us are born to do.

(About a 2 minute read)

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. ~Erich Fromm

It’s a curious thing about we humans that not all that many of us are greatly creative.  In fact, as a species, we’re rather conservative.

Until the last few centuries, the human world was mostly unchanging.  People tended to live as their grandparents lived with very few innovations in either their thinking or their doing.  It’s only been relatively recently that change has become the norm.

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Art, Christianity, Creative Thinking, Creativity, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Idealism, Ideas, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Invention, New Idea, Obligations to Society, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Society, Thinking

What Do Intellectuals Do, Anyway?

SUMMARY: American culture has a virulent strain of anti-intellectualism.  Consequently, few people understand or appreciate the role intellectuals can — and often do — play in a society.  In fact, many intellectuals can be seen as similar to cartographers in that they create ideas that can be used as guides to reality.  When they do so conscientiously and accurately, the whole society can benefit.

(About a 6 minute read)

It is a truism among people who study such things that American culture has, almost since the founding of the Republic, harbored a virulent anti-intellectual streak.  But the founders themselves were anything but anti-intellectual.

Franklin, for instance, was the leading American intellectual of their day, and Washington — possibly the most prominent non-intellectual of the era — often made efforts to improve himself in that department, for he did not think himself an equal to the others unless he could muster at least a passing familiarity with the great ideas of the time.

But almost with the deaths on the same day of Adams and Jefferson, American culture developed a marked anti-intellectual streak.  Some people have attributed that streak to the democratic suspicion of anyone who might appear to be smarter than oneself.  But while that might sustain American anti-intellectualism, anti-intellectualism seems to have gotten its start in religion.

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Bad Ideas, Belief, Biases, Cognitive Biases, Human Nature, Ideas, Intellectual Honesty, Knowledge, Logic, Philosophy, Reason, Skeptical Thinking, Thinking, Truth

Finding Truth in All the Wrong Places

SUMMARY: The post examines the notion that we can reliably decide what is true or not according to whether or not an idea “feels true”.

(About a 3 minute read)

“Suppose truth really is a woman”,  Nietzsche asks at the beginning of one of his books.  “Has not the history of philosophy proven that philosophers are clumsy around women?”

Nietzsche was among the first Europeans to recognize how problematic is the notion that we humans seek truth.  About the same time, in America, the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce was developing Pragmatism — a school of philosophy resting on the observation that we do not seek truth, but rather seek the psychologically comfortable state of belief.

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Bad Ideas, Citizenship, Class War, Community, Competence, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Democracy, Education, Equality of Opportunity, Freedom and Liberty, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Knowledge, Learning, Life, Living, Obligations to Society, People, Political Issues, Politics, Privilege, Quality of Life, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Talents and Skills, Teacher, Teaching, Thinking, Tomoko, Values

The Value of a Teacher

SUMMARY: Teachers in the US are poorly compensated for the work in comparison to teachers in Japan.  Outside of the best public schools and elite private schools, students are educated to become loyal, obedient citizens with adequate job skills.  This contrasts sharply with earlier educational goals in America.

(About an 8 minute read)

My second wife, Tomoko, spent her early years in Tokyo, Japan.  She attended an elite school whose students were mainly the sons and daughters of government and corporate leaders.

Tomoko’s father, for instance, was an American on loan from Motorola to Sony who headed up Sony’s East Asian quality control during the years Japanese goods became synonymous with “quality”.   Her cousin, who tutored her growing up, was at one point the head of North American sales for Toyota.  His major accomplishment was taking Toyota products from about 6% of the car market in the US to over 22%.

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Abuse, Bad Ideas, Community, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Ethics, Family, Life, Living, Marriage, Memes, Morality, Morals, News and Current Events, Physical Abuse, Political Issues, Quality of Life, Relationships, Society, Thinking, Values, Verbal Abuse

Divorce

(About a 4 minute read)

A few days ago, I was reading about a pastor from one of the Southern states who is of the angry opinion (why does everyone think they need to be angry to open their mouths on nearly any subject these days?) that divorce was far too easy in America.

He blamed no-fault divorce for breaking up the American family, and warned that it would soon lead to the collapse of the nation. Consequently he was calling for laws that would make it much harder to get divorced.

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