Saturday, October 29, 2011

The problem with relativism

This clip was first uploaded in May, but I thought it was important enough to post now.

Besides, it's far older than that. Note that this is just an excerpt from the Trialogues at the Edge of the Millennium at the University of California at Vera Cruz in 1998. There's a playlist here which may (or may not) contain the whole thing. Sorry, but I really don't have time to watch it now.

But this clip gets to something that's really important. How do you tell that what you believe is true, or even reasonable? Think about that. Republicans believe that you should think with your gut, instead of your brain, but this kind of thinking isn't just on the right.

Personally, I think that it's a good thing to have reasons - good reasons - for what you believe. Whatever you believe, ask yourself why you believe it. What makes you think that you're right? And how would you know if you were wrong? (If there's no way to tell if you're wrong, then you probably are wrong. You're probably just believing what you want to believe.)

Reason and logic are critical, but even they aren't enough without evidence. True, evidence-based thinking doesn't guarantee that you'll always be right, but it gives you a better chance of that. And if you are wrong, the evidence will eventually tell you that. (You do change your mind when the evidence indicates that you've been wrong, don't you?)

As I say, irrational thinking isn't just on the right. It's widespread on the far-left, too. It may not be quite as dangerous on the left, because those people have little political power these days, while the far-right controls the entire Republican Party. But it's certainly not harmless, either.

Now, I generally say what I mean. When someone else makes a claim, I think about it. I actually think about it. And if I disagree - or even if I'm not sure whether or not I agree - I often speak up. I figure that, if you've got reasons for what you believe, you'll tell me those reasons. And then I figure that I'll think about those, too.

But that's rarely how it goes. Most people seem to get upset by my objections. Why? Wouldn't you want to know if you were wrong? I would. And if you're not wrong, why would my comments bother you? Can't you just explain why you know you're right?

I try to be polite. Oh, not here on this blog. I don't bother much with politeness here, especially to people who'll never read what I say, anyway. But I do try to be polite elsewhere. Not polite enough, apparently. Or maybe my comments just seem that way.

But frankly, that's become my new method of spotting complete bullshit. If you get angry when I examine your claims, that's pretty good evidence that they're nothing but bull.

As I say, if you have good reasons for what you believe, you'll simply tell me those reasons. It's only when people can't, it's only when what they believe is complete nonsense, that they tend to get angry.

That's not a perfect way of telling shit from shinola, but it's a pretty good clue.

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