Jan 12, 2010
Philosophical Phun - Universalism Lite :o)
Our belief systems are saturated with the opinions of others. In our childhoods, we acquire beliefs from parents, siblings, and teachers. These constitute the backdrop against which we form yet other beliefs, and, often enough, these latter beliefs are also the products of other people’s beliefs. We hear testimony from those we meet, read books and articles, listen to television and radio reports, and then form opinions on the basis of these sources of information. If we have intellectual trust in ourselves, we are pressured also to have intellectual trust in others.
The credibility of someone else’s opinion can be defeated even when we have no specific knowledge of the individual’s track record, capacities, training, evidence, or background. It is defeated when our opinions conflict, because, by our perception, the person has been unreliable. When our opinions conflict with a person about whom we know little, the pressure to trust that person is dissipated and, as a result, the presumption of trust is defeated. If we have other information indicating that the person is a reliable evaluator of the issue, it might still be rational for us to defer, but in cases of conflict we rarely do.
I think that a large part of our problem in todays environment is that we have lost our concept of intellectual curiosity. Instead of performing our own research, weighing pros and cons, and then forming an opinion; we rely on talking heads and soundbites. Our society has reached the point that we latch onto the first opinion, that on the surface, matches our own - with the skeptical and questioning perspective immediately switched off. Even worse, we seem to be then espousing that position as truth.
My wish for this new year is that we slow down, start to weigh the pros and cons, and reach our conclusions on how to proceed based on facts, and remove the emotion from the picture.
Entry information from Think Tonk.