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MP,
I think debate and argument does work well SOMEtimes. OTOH, as you noted at other times it's futile. I like the old quote, "Never argue with an idiot, he'll take you down to his level and beat you with experience." :)
Suzie

It may work occasionally, but I'm hard pressed to think of many cases in my own life when my mind has been changed by someone else's debating points.

I believe one of the main problems are the differences between individuals and groups. Individuals can be rational; groups cannot. They can only feel, and it's always the worst emotions.

To begin with, this can be of interest:
John Maynard Keynes. The Economic Consequences of the Peace http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1920keynes.html http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1920keynes.html

Basically, what JMK said as early as 1919-20, is that the Versailles Peace was not simply "unjust". The problem is, the economic order it created in Europe was doomed to implode.

This is exactly what happened later when both Germans and Russians created totatlitarian states in response to challenges created by WW1.

Chinese situation was different. All through WW1-WW2 period, China was immersed in the Civil War and Japanese occupation. Mao succeeded in building a stable totalitian state only after WW2, after the American defeat of Japan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Civil_War

>It may work occasionally, but I'm hard pressed to think of many cases in my own life when my mind has been changed by someone else's debating points.<
MP,
Really? Maybe you've been looking in the wrong places ;) Geez, just offhand I can think of several times in the past year alone I've changed my way of thinking from debating with someone. Sometimes just a fine point but even those can be mind opening and altering into further areas, and darned exciting to boot. "Hmm, well hey if that's true then applying the same concept to such and such and then, whoaa! Cool!" (Maybe it's so exciting because of my own brand of scatterbrained logic/non-logic? heh heh). I don't always enjoy admitting the other person has a winning point and I was wrong :) When I do find a good and fair sparring partner, I look forward to further matches with glee, it's truly one of the finer pleasures in this life.
Bob,
I agree that individuals are usually easier to rationalize with than groups but I disagree with overgeneralizing "groups CANNOT [be rational]"..."they can ONLY...and it's ALWAYS the worst emotions."
Suzie

It may work occasionally, but I'm hard pressed to think of many cases in my own life when my mind has been changed by someone else's debating points.

There is such a thing, called real time conflict anaysis. When you track heavy ideological clash like in the ME systematically, you better change your mind fast if you want to understand what is going on ;-)

>Geez, just offhand I can think of several times in the past year alone I've changed my way of thinking from debating with someone.

I would say that I can change my mind when I'm exposed to new information or to a new point of view, but usually not if it's presented in the context of a debate. In a debate, I find myself trying to defend my position, rather than really considering what the other person has to say. My ego gets in the way and throws up a lot of barriers. Of course, it may be different for other people. But I'm starting to think that debate, in general, is much overrated as a means of changing anyone's mind.

Think about presidential debates. There are two that are usually thought to have changed voters' minds - JFK vs. Nixon (1960), and Reagan vs. Carter (1980).

On TV, JFK came across as smoother and more reassuring than Nixon. Actually, Nixon parried JFK's intellectual points quite well, but he looked sweaty and nervous, with a five o'clock shadow, and that's what people noticed. When Reagan debated Carter, Reagan came across as funny and nonthreatening, while Carter seemed icy and pompous.

In other words, even when a debate does chang people's minds, it seems to come down to emotions and subliminal messages - body language, tone of voice - rather than intellectual content.

Suzie,

The late Erik von Kuehnelt, who has influenced more than I can possibly say, had an interesting comment in his book, Leftism Revisited: "'I' is from God and 'We' is from the Devil." He meant that anything that completely exalted the group over the individual -- communism, fascism, Nazism -- was bound to produce catastrophes. One of the reasons is because groups cannot think; they can only feel. One of the best examples of this is the movie, "Triumph of the Will," which contains a scene in which hundreds of thousands of people part like the Red Sea for Moses, so Hitler can walk through. That's the power of appealing to the emotions of a group.

Think about presidential debates. There are two that are usually thought to have changed voters' minds - JFK vs. Nixon (1960), and Reagan vs. Carter (1980).

Well, on TV, Howard Stern could pretty easily humiliate Pinter and prove that his plays are not worth $0.02. The problem is, this would not make Howard a better playwright.

What I mean by debate is closer to what happens in "Medea". Jason is very articulate in his explanations of why Medea needs to be dumped. Basically, it all comes to the fact that as a barbarian, she does nor exactly fit the Greek society. In response, Medea proves in action that she can kill Jason's gf, their children - and flee.

What is also interesting, this kind of argumentation would be quite understandable for the National Socialists because they loved the Greek mythology. But I don't think they would like this logic because for them, Jason was racially superior to Medea.

Michael Prescott says:

"It may work occasionally, but I'm hard pressed to think of many cases in my own life when my mind has been changed by someone else's debating points."

Actually if you think about it, this only means that our minds are in our own control. By no means a bad thing necessarily. We just need to remember, that being rational about other view points, insofar as our ability to be influenced or changed by them, is something we have to bring ourselves to be able to do. That is, being open-minded first, and then not being downright gullible. My approach to this would is as outlined in my blog post "Evaluating the Belief-System" accessible by my URL. Perhaps you'd like to read it and see what you think about it? I've changed many things ideas that I've initially thought, thanks to such a philosophy.

I think a solution for this is to order your belief system as a hierarchy. Placing the most important concept at the top, which dictates other concepts that fall below.

First, I generally prefer tables to trees. Next, it is not clear how all this can work in practice. I am really not sure in what exactly way belief trees can be helpful to deal with totalitarian beliefs we are talking about.

Thanks for the plug, Michael.

I'm working on a reply. It might be a bit as I am being swamped with work right now. . .

Hey Henry,

Thanks for the interest in what I wrote, but I think you're on the wrong track about what I was saying. To keep it relatively brief I'll just kind of state the main idea of what I had written.

I was saying that if one takes their belief system, sets it up like a ladder, and sets Truth *in and of itself* (not Muslim-Truth, Christianity-Truth, not Hindu-Truth, Nazi-Truth, etc.)then one can't go wrong with their approach. Not that one will immediately or shortly arrive at the truth by adopting such an approach (who knows how long that takes). However, if one follows such a model cognitively, it forces all other concepts of things we tend to believe to be subject to "Truth" in and of itself. I merely mean to say that it's hard to see any other approach as being successful, unless it starts with a most purified, non-predetermined notion of truth to follow.

Dane,

Thanks for your thoughts. I read your blog entry on hierarchical thinking. Placing Truth as one's highest value is certainly a good idea, but I think in practice our egos tend to get in the way. We start to defend our preconceptions of what Truth is, rather than being really open-minded. It's probably impossible to maintain full objectivity - what we acknowledge as true, or even as possible, depends largely on what we already believe.

That's why so many scientists (or laymen who are fans of science) tend to dismiss the paranormal and supernatural out of hand. It doesn't fit the paradigm under which they're operating. They can't think outside the box. But it's not just them; it's all of us. (As Pogo said, I have seen the enemy and he is us.) We all have prejudices, blind spots, predilections, etc.

Our approach to Truth is, I think, an asymptotic curve - we can get nearer and nearer, but never quite reach it.

Muslim-Truth, Christianity-Truth, not Hindu-Truth, Nazi-Truth, etc.

The correct term here is ideology which is as related to culture and religion as a computer game to the computer software and hardware.

That's why so many scientists (or laymen who are fans of science) tend to dismiss the paranormal and supernatural out of hand. It doesn't fit the paradigm under which they're operating. They can't think outside the box. But it's not just them; it's all of us.

From scientific and religious prospective, parapsychology is just a game which can be loved or hated, but cannot be taken same way as science and religion proper.

Well I finally got the time to finish my blog post on this topic. Thanks for bringing it up Michael, it's critical for making progress on our journey.

2006-01-28 Female, baby, foetus "islamofascists" and the heap paradox

Thanks, Matthew, for your blog post and your interesting observations. And also your great nature photos!

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