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Health Warning
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Do you hold opinions? If so, you should read this helpful health warning I have compiled.

JUSTIFICATION VERSUS INERTIA

The most important property of an opinion is its origin. By this I refer to the system a person will go through before accepting an opinion. According to idealistic systems like empiricism, opinions should be justified beforehand. In contrast, pragmatic systems (which are nameless, but infinitely more popular) let you absorb opinions by vague methods and then require a crucial change in thinking in order to modify them.

The second type is what I want to discuss mostly. It is normal behavior for a human to reach a conclusion without logical justification and preserve that opinion until a change occurs. Human beings find it difficult to react to anything that isn’t a change. Assessing an unchanging field of inquiry is virtually impossible. You can consider this type of opinion yourself by investigating your own opinions. Consider these questions.

  1. Do you have an opinion on global warming?
  2. Have you assessed the data on this subject first-hand?

If your answers to these questions were not identical, your opinion belongs to the category I have described. Do not be ashamed: we all hold these opinions. It is impossible for us not to. However, since I intend to discuss this category of opinion further, I cannot continue calling it “this category”. Fortunately for me, there is a simpler word to describe an opinion like this - “delusion”.

PRAGMATISM

Obviously, the fact that a given opinion is a delusion does not in itself imply that the opinion is false. It is possible to be convinced of something without justification and later find that you are right.

Systems like empiricism are intended to weed out unjustified opinion, but they are powerless to affect the thousands of small scale opinions we adopt and discard in our daily lives. Virtually all our opinions are based on holding onto things that appear right until they are proved false. More importantly - vast belief systems are build on small premises, and only an absurdly small proportion of society is capable of identifying their premises.

Here is an experiment: find a fundamentalist, identify their premises, and question one of them. If you do this, you will find that they simply cannot understand the question. It will be like they didn’t hear it, and their answer will be entirely about something else. Let me show you an example:

A: Why am I evil?
B: This text states that your actions are evil.
A: Why is this text authoritative?
B: It was written by God.
A: How do you know it was written by God?

You will never see this question answered - except for a handwave like “the text says it was”. This question is never answered partly because it can’t be answered but most importantly because person B is not aware of the importance of this premise in their opinions. In extreme cases, they will be unaware of the premise itself.

This is not unusual. We all do this. None of us escape this tendency — we all have delusions in the bedrock of our opinions. The whole of human existence rests on building consistent principles on top of unproven axioms. Pragmatically, it's all okay. It only becomes not okay when someone expects people to agree with their hidden premises. You would think it was basic logic — you can’t expect someone to be convinced when there is no way to convince them — but it is apparently impossible for any living human to grasp that this is an error. This isn't just fascism and fundamentalism - this applies to everything. If you hold any opinion as true and expect other people to agree without justification, you are obliged to discard it.

Which is why you should vote for Mei to tell everyone what to believe.

CAVEAT - I was originally going to talk about the difference between a casual opinion and a concrete inflexible one, but it made the post so much longer, and since no one else distinguishes between them it's probably a waste of time. Basically - you don't have to reject all opinions, you just have to accept that anything can be wrong.

--21:35, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

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Talk


Awesome post, Mei! Most people do end up rationalizing their opinions post hoc, and often times the Internet (with its wide range of opinions and false information) makes this easier. Tetronian you're clueless 21:39, 25 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks Tetronian. ^______^ Of course, finding people who agree with you can be very bad for you (I've been reading Speak Your Branes a lot recently). I quite like this post, but it also makes me uncomfortable because it is what I really think. In my experience, saying what you really think can be risky. It's better to just make fun of things you don't think. -- Mei (talk) 21:44, 25 March 2010 (UTC)
I respectfully disagree - if you don't say what you think, other people will never get a chance to challenge your beliefs, and you lose out on productive criticism that would otherwise help you to grow as a person. Not saying what you think may spare you from name-calling and abuse, but it will also shield you from insightful discussion that often leads to self-discovery.
I do agree that finding people you agree with can be dangerous; I would also argue that reading too much of things you agree with is also dangerous. Heck, I would even argue that RW is dangerous because most of us here share the same beliefs. (Although, in RW's defense, we do foster a lot of discussion and debate.) Tetronian you're clueless 21:53, 25 March 2010 (UTC)
'help you to grow as a person' - Hehe. I've never really done that much growing and I don't intend to start now. -- Mei (talk) 18:35, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
RW is very good for fostering debate from my POV. IRL I am very superstitious and generally irrational. -- Mei (talk) 18:35, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
Ohmy.gif That was bloody difficult to find. Why do we have about 50 smileys? Educated stupid Phantom Hoover! 18:43, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
For example, here are some things which are unlucky.
  1. Doing anything an odd number of times unless the number is five.
  2. Hesitating
  3. Failing to write down anything that might be important later.
I hope there is a smiley for this situation. -- Mei (talk) 18:55, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
Meh. I have this weird thing where I have to blow one my hand if I accidentally breathed on the other. Educated stupid Phantom Hoover! 22:42, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
I like that idea and I might try it in the future. You're sort of balancing the amount of air they receive? Mei (talk) 22:48, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
Sort of, but it also derives from an even more irritating thing I had earlier wherein any sensation had to be mirrored. Educated stupid Phantom Hoover! 22:59, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
I can see how that would be annoying. As a fellow superstitious person, I would be very interested to hear your rationale for these actions. Mei (talk) 23:04, 27 March 2010 (UTC)
Well, I wouldn't call it a superstition; it's more of a compulsion. I do it because I feel uncomfortable if I don't. Educated stupid Phantom Hoover! 18:07, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
I think if there is a pseudologic behind the acts, it is more like superstition. Don't be afraid of superstitions! Mei (talk) 01:59, 29 March 2010 (UTC)