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I've threatened to do this for quite some time... so I guess now is as good a time as any.

There's been some discussion on this topic recently, and I'm not opposed to importing quotes -- but for this OP, I'd like to start fresh. I don't have a particular thesis or argument, but I would like to explore the topic of "evasion," and importantly how it intersects with ethics. That is, given "evasion" (however we conceive of it, though obviously that's central to the discussion) what do we do about it? How do we recognize and deal with evasion in others? How do we recognize and deal with evasion in ourselves.

Let me back up for a moment. The first time I ever dealt with evasion, and recognized it as such, was long before reading Rand/discovering Objectivism. I'm sure I didn't use the word "evasion" to describe the phenomenon -- probably something like "denial" would have been quicker to my mind -- but I was debating the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden with a Christian friend of mine, and I wished to make a point by reference to the text of Genesis. I didn't have a copy on-hand, but I was certain that my friend must keep a copy (and we were at his home). I asked him to break out his Bible, so that I could demonstrate the textual basis of my argument -- show that the Bible really did say what I claimed that it did -- and... my friend refused. He did not want to look at the Bible, to see whether I was right or wrong. He didn't want to know.

Now, I know that many people will think that this is besides the point. "Evasion" is an internal phenomenon, a subconscious phenomenon, and so it is. You can't see it happen. I agree. But I have come to believe that evasion often has surface features and effects which may be recognized and addressed. It's kind of like a "tell" in poker: you can't see the other person's cards, but you can see their reaction to their cards, and often people have a characteristic reaction, depending on their hand. That is information, and just like any information, we can try to make sense of it through our best use of reason (bearing in mind the context that we may easily make mistakes in doing so; and sometimes you bet in poker on the basis of what you think you know, and lose).

Usually, this doesn't take the form of someone specifically refusing to look at something -- refusing to look through the proverbial (or literal) telescope -- though sometimes it does. But especially through a long history of debate and conversation, on this forum and elsewhere, what I've found is more often a pronounced reluctance or resistance to specific argument. There are untold arguments where someone has made a claim of, "I will get to that point soon," and then they never, ever do. Not even if it is brought up time and again, or made a point of emphasis. This is not, in itself, proof of anything, let alone "evasion," but especially in context I consider it my best means of determining when a partner in conversation is focused and oriented (in the manner that they would need to be to determine their own error, should I be correct) or otherwise. When examples go unaddressed, when my arguments are paraphrased incorrectly (sometimes wildly so), when questions are asked but never answered, and so forth, it is all information that helps me to see whether someone is engaging with the discussion... or perhaps deflecting it.

And then, in myself, I wonder: how should I know it, if I evade? Because I take it for granted (though perhaps I shouldn't) that a person does not have conscious awareness of his own evasion; if he had conscious awareness, it wouldn't be evasion. That's what makes it so damned troublesome!

What I have found in others, I look for in myself. I look for the effects of evasion, rather than counting on my ability to detect it, as such (or rather than what I fear most do, which is to implicitly assume that I am the only human on earth somehow immune to evasion, of my nature). When I feel reluctant to address some argument or answer some question directly, I try to make it a point of emphasis to do exactly what I am initially disinclined to do. If a question is asked of me, and I fear that my answer will somehow put me at a rhetorical disadvantage, because my instinctive answer somehow "sounds bad" for me or the point I'm trying to make, I consider it doubly important to answer the question directly, and to try to assess whether what I consider a "rhetorical disadvantage" isn't actually just me being wrong about something. I may also choose to answer such a question at length, in an attempt to explain myself more fully, or provide the proper context for interpreting my answer, but I don't let it pass unaddressed because it seems "easier" or feels more comfortable. I fear that those emotional cues, sometimes, may actually be symptoms of an attempt at evasion.

For as I'd recently mentioned elsewhere, I have come to regard evasion as a sort of psychological self-defense mechanism. I think no one is immune. When I try to imagine the extremes of evasion, what I come up with is something like "dissociative identity disorder." To be very honest, I'm not certain whether that's a real phenomenon or not (or the extent, at least, of its "reality"). But suppose that it is. My layman's perspective on it is that it might make sense for a person, in a given context, to "go to war with reality" to some certain extent in order to preserve one's sanity otherwise. To pretend that some outrageous forms of abuse (especially in early childhood) are not truly happening to the self, but "someone else." It is a desperate measure in the face of the truly horrendous, and it portends a lifetime of difficulty and recovery, but in some cases it might still be better than the alternative.

I think that, to lesser or greater extents, evasion is a subconscious means of such self or "ego" preservation.

With my Christian friend (and I sorely wish that I had this level of insight then), it's worth asking: what would he need to defend? What vested interest does a teenager (as we both were) have in the details of the story of bleeding Genesis, such that his emotions would scream at him to avoid looking at his own professed Holy Book? Well, only everything. He'd been raised Christian, in a Christian family, in a Christian community. Though it may not be so simple as this, he regarded his own understanding of the universe -- and his own morality, his own self -- as being based upon his beliefs in the Bible. So... if he were wrong about that, even to the smallest degree, what would that mean for... his beliefs about literally everything else? What would it mean for his regard for his family, for his friends, for himself (in that he had been so thoroughly taken in)? Having been so wrong about this, how could he ever again trust himself going forward?

It's an immensity to consider. And I think that this lies at the heart of the pushback against thought, against evidence, that evasion fundamentally represents. Our survival, our happiness, our lives and all that this represents, depends upon our ability to think, and to be right. And so the possibility of being wrong (and sometimes thoroughly wrong) feels like an attack on our very lives. Evasion, then, is the fear of pain that being wrong, and all that it entails, made manifest at the subconscious level... and then represented at the conscious level by emotional reactions and biases that shade our responses, choices and actions, whether it be something so striking and obvious as an explicit "refusal to look," or something so subtle as an indirect answer to a direct question.

Beyond looking for the "tells" I'd mentioned, resolving to answer questions directly, and etc., what can one do to fight against this tendency? I think that some of my conscious convictions have helped (or at least, so I hope). My conviction, for instance, that being wrong is no moral crime. That it is, in fact, a wondrous joy to discover my own errors -- not a slight against my ego or value, but a tribute to my ability and intelligence. This is how I have come to view debate and argument, not as a contest between enemies, but as a collaboration between allies. I do not feel put off by challenging material; I am drawn to it. (And indeed, I read Rand initially, not because I thought she would agree with me or provide me with some defense of already-held arguments... but because I thought she would disagree with me utterly, and I looked forward to the project of identifying her errors!)

There is an analogy to be made here with my experience of playing games with my daughter. She does not like to lose. Of course. Nobody does. But over the course of my life -- and reflective of what I hope to instill in her early on -- I have come to view losing at games (or "failures" more generally) as being instrumental to the course of improvement... and eventual winning/success. So it is with being wrong. We are all wrong, at times. We are all probably wrong, right now, with respect to some of our beliefs. It is no moral failure to be wrong about things. But the right way of viewing this, in my opinion, is to deeply value the experience of being proved wrong. To then put ourselves in the best position possible to be proved wrong, and to embrace that feeling, embrace the difficult emotions associated with a stern challenge to one's ego, as being part of the true path towards success. And then, also, to look for the concrete manifestations that I have mentioned -- and seek out and discover others, and amend our actions accordingly.

It ain't easy. I'm not always successful, either. But I believe that it's the key to addressing one's own evasion and pushing past it to discover and embrace the truth.

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2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

We are all wrong, at times. We are all probably wrong, right now, with respect to some of our beliefs. It is no moral failure to be wrong about things. But the right way of viewing this, in my opinion, is to deeply value the experience of being proved wrong.

This is an inversion of how I've sought to identify error in my thinking. Knowing that I can be in error is something well covered in OPAR and in many places in Rand's writing. The fact that there is the potential to be wrong, is not grounds for thinking that we are holding a wrong belief. Being wrong, in and of itself is not a moral failure. Moral failure is discovering, for yourself, by the criteria you have established for yourself, that you are holding a contradiction, and not correcting it. (I am using "you" here, in the broadest general sense of the term.)

This amounts to valuing the ability to recognize a contradiction, especially in one's own thinking, over actively pursuing the experience of being proven wrong by others.

 

Regarding your opening paragraph: threatening to broach the subject? I just thought you were making good on a promise.

Edited by dream_weaver

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4 hours ago, DonAthos said:

With my Christian friend (and I sorely wish that I had this level of insight then), it's worth asking: what would he need to defend? ... Though it may not be so simple as this, he regarded his own understanding of the universe -- and his own morality, his own self -- as being based upon his beliefs in the Bible. So... if he were wrong about that, even to the smallest degree, what would that mean for... his beliefs about literally everything else? What would it mean for his regard for his family, for his friends, for himself (in that he had been so thoroughly taken in)? Having been so wrong about this, how could he ever again trust himself going forward?

When it comes to Christians, at least, I think it runs a bit deeper than that.

 

In my first experiences with evasion, my parents called it "faith". All of the scriptures I heard about revolved around "faith" in one of two ways: the characters either thought for themselves, based their knowledge on the evidence of their senses, worked to improve their own situations and were brutally annihilated or they threw their hands in their air, said "God will solve our problems for us", had all of their problems miraculously solved and lived happily ever after.

Imagining that what's basically the mind of the universe itself is inside your head with you, waiting to dish out infinite pleasure or infinite pain depending on the particular trains of thought you choose to follow... It's a lot of pressure. In retrospect, I imagine it must be close to what it feels like to have a gun to the back of your head.

 

They're still so much fun to mess with, though. ;)

 

 

Anyway. I'll be back momentarily.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Do I need a "reason for edit"?! Up yours!

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6 hours ago, DonAthos said:

 How do we recognize and deal with evasion in others?

I will actually answer that question (probably tomorrow), but to respond this way was just too hilarious to be passed up. Not the first video. The editor isn't cooperating with me (I think it's offended at a few of the things I told it in the last few hours); the second one.

 

That's how you respond to evasion! XD

 

You've got to admit - that's funny.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
The Editor's Non-compliance

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7 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Regarding your opening paragraph: threatening to broach the subject? I just thought you were making good on a promise.

That's my idea of, er, humor. See? I'm a fun guy! :D

7 hours ago, dream_weaver said:
9 hours ago, DonAthos said:

We are all wrong, at times. We are all probably wrong, right now, with respect to some of our beliefs. It is no moral failure to be wrong about things. But the right way of viewing this, in my opinion, is to deeply value the experience of being proved wrong.

This is an inversion of how I've sought to identify error in my thinking.

That potentially gives us something to discuss. :)

7 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Knowing that I can be in error is something well covered in OPAR and in many places in Rand's writing. The fact that there is the potential to be wrong, is not grounds for thinking that we are holding a wrong belief.

I agree that "the potential to be wrong" isn't grounds for thinking that we hold any wrong belief, in specific. But I do believe that this potential necessitates a certain general mindset which is constantly on guard for, and even probing for, the possibility of error. Besides which... how can I put this...?

Sometime ago, when discussing the arbitrary, I raised the question as to whether the (somewhat absurd) statement of, "At the moment, someone in Sweden is eating an egg," is a proper example of the "arbitrary." For I would lay money on the claim that there is someone in Sweden eating an egg, right at this very moment, although I have no specific evidence of any individual currently doing so. Yet perhaps it is evidence of a kind in knowing how many people there are in Sweden, and knowing human dietary habits, and so forth, which justifies that sort of claim. And so, while I don't know the contents of anyone's mind in total, such that I could enumerate every last belief (not even my own), I feel confident in saying that among that vast multitude of beliefs, with respect to any individual, some beliefs are bound to be wrong.

Or another way of approaching this is, consider this forum. Note the multiplicity of opinions here, and disagreements -- and this is among people who (at least to some degree) identify with the same core philosophy. I would dare say that an average adult human holds what we might consider to be thousands (or perhaps orders of magnitude more) of distinct beliefs. And if you were to compare the beliefs of any two people -- any two people in the world -- the odds are strongly against their aligning perfectly, down to the very last. Now I suppose, even given all of this, it is possible that one individual may, in his beliefs, be 100% correct. Perhaps that person is you. Or perhaps it is me. But even were it me (and I do consider myself correct in all of the beliefs I currently hold; that's the very thing it means to "believe" them), I would still want to be on guard against the possibility of error, just as I may have the constitution to be able to smoke, eat, drink, never exercise, and still live to 100, fit as a fiddle... but regardless, I still plan on exercising, refraining from smoking, eating sensibly, and etc.

Just as we should have good physical habits, should we wish to remain healthy, we also need good mental habits, to guard against error.

7 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Being wrong, in and of itself is not a moral failure.

Agreed.

7 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Moral failure is discovering, for yourself, by the criteria you have established for yourself, that you are holding a contradiction, and not correcting it. (I am using "you" here, in the broadest general sense of the term.)

I agree with you that, should a person discover an internal contradiction and fail to correct it (to the extent that he is able), this would represent a moral failure. The thing is, with respect to this thread, that evasion works against an individual's ability to recognize that he is holding a contradiction in the first place, by keeping him from focusing on some particular evidence, argument or what have you, sufficiently to see it.

And so, we cannot wait for the insight of seeing an explicit contradiction among our conscious thoughts -- not if we mean to work against our own potential to evade. We must be sensitive to more subtle clues, focusing and guiding our thoughts accordingly, such that we can come to discover any contradictions in our thought -- and then work to correct them.

7 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

This amounts to valuing the ability to recognize a contradiction, especially in one's own thinking, over actively pursuing the experience of being proven wrong by others.

I think that what I mean by pursing the experience of being proven wrong by others is to create a general attitude or mindset that fosters the ability to recognize a contradiction; so I don't see this as choosing one versus the other, but aspects of the same general approach. This is in contrast to those who dread being proven wrong (I suspect a common condition), which I think hampers and impairs the ability to recognize a contradiction through evasion.

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19 hours ago, DonAthos said:

And then, in myself, I wonder: how should I know it, if I evade? Because I take it for granted (though perhaps I shouldn't) that a person does not have conscious awareness of his own evasion; if he had conscious awareness, it wouldn't be evasion. That's what makes it so damned troublesome!

I'm not sure about that. Referring back to "Seize the Reigns of Your Mind", it makes sense to me to distinguish between drifting and evading. 

One can drift (simply failing to pay attention) without realizing it, and in fact cannot do otherwise; if you realize that you're drifting, and continue to do so, then it becomes wilful evasion. You can't evade accidentally; if you're not consciously refusing to pay attention then you're drifting.

 

19 hours ago, DonAthos said:

How do we recognize and deal with evasion in ourselves.

With evasion - just don't evade, I think. Drifting (which seems like a good portion of what you've described) is more difficult and I'm not sure I can improve on your approach; I wish I'd thought of it. :thumbsup:

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9 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I think that what I mean by pursing the experience of being proven wrong by others is to create a general attitude or mindset that fosters the ability to recognize a contradiction; so I don't see this as choosing one versus the other, but aspects of the same general approach. This is in contrast to those who dread being proven wrong (I suspect a common condition), which I think hampers and impairs the ability to recognize a contradiction through evasion.

This still strikes me as an inversion. It stems from the knowledge that being right is not automatic. It is a choice. Once that choice to be right is selected, this sets in motion the identification of what elements need be in place to be right. It is the act of taking responsibility for one's own rightness. Why would I want to delegate that responsibility to others?

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44 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

I'm not sure about that. Referring back to "Seize the Reigns of Your Mind", it makes sense to me to distinguish between drifting and evading.

I've not yet watched Onkar's presentation. Perhaps I will in the future and comment on it.

44 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

One can drift (simply failing to pay attention) without realizing it, and in fact cannot do otherwise; if you realize that you're drifting, and continue to do so, then it becomes wilful evasion. You can't evade accidentally; if you're not consciously refusing to pay attention then you're drifting.

I'm not certain that "accidental" is the right word for how I view evasion, but I believe that it is subconscious. That means that it is not a conscious choice -- to evade or not to evade -- but that it happens on a level apart from our conscious decision-making process. (If it ever occurred to you, "should I evade this right now?" then, whatever it is you're doing -- you're not evading! ;))

Perhaps there is also the phenomenon "drifting," which functions somewhat differently (in fact, I'd say that sounds right), but that doesn't make "evasion" a conscious process. If it did (as the possibility I grant in what you've quoted of me) then evasion would not be evasion. It wouldn't be the phenomenon described by Rand; it might be something else, like "denial," or I don't know, but it wouldn't be the same beast, and actually at that point it would be right to say, "evasion does not exist."

As it happens, I believe that evasion exists. I think it explains a lot about what I've observed over the course of my life, and the difficulty that (at the very least the vast majority of) people have in recognizing their own errors, and how they struggle -- especially in the context of argument -- against recognizing or correcting their mistakes.

44 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

With evasion - just don't evade, I think.

Heh, if only it were that simple! :)

I don't doubt that Objectivists of all people would be the first to abandon evasion, if it came down to a simple choice like that. And then we would see much, much greater agreement between Objectivists; but as this board stands testament, there is great disagreement between Objectivists about all sorts of topics... and I think that the root cause of this (though not the only cause, by any means) is: evasion. And I think that the reason why this condition persists -- though none of us wishes to evade, or would choose to do it, as such -- is because it is mostly hidden from our own view, and at a remove from our ordinary, conscious decision-making process.

If it were completely hidden from view, then we would be SOL (though also, at such a point, it would be reasonable to conclude that "there is no such thing as evasion"). My essential argument, however, is that we can come to recognize evasion, in ourselves and others, through some of its secondary effects; and that ideally, by addressing ourselves to some of those secondary effects -- as well as through what I've begun to describe as "mindset," which I suspect creates a more or less fertile ground for evasion -- we can use our conscious mind to deal with it.

44 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Drifting (which seems like a good portion of what you've described) is more difficult and I'm not sure I can improve on your approach; I wish I'd thought of it. :thumbsup:

If I had to hazard a guess about "drifting," I would say that the characteristic difference between that and "evasion" is how evasion works as a self-defense mechanism, as I'd described. Thus the practical difference is, one may "drift" with respect to anything, and we might expect drifting to be a rather haphazard phenomenon accordingly. A scattering of error through insufficient focus, if you will. But evasion we can expect to cluster around specific topics -- with something like purpose -- resulting in the phenomenon that we sometimes describe as "compartmentalization," where a person may be extraordinarily clear-sighted in certain areas of thought, and impossibly cloudy in others. There's more to that than simple "drift."

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20 hours ago, DonAthos said:

That is, given "evasion" (however we conceive of it, though obviously that's central to the discussion) what do we do about it? How do we recognize and deal with evasion in others?

As for recognition, evasion is typically more direct and persistent. A drifter might slip up here or there because they're multitasking (or whatever) and simply missed something; if someone can sit and maintain that A!=A then they're probably not just drifting.

As for dealing with evasion, I usually try to determine why they're evading and possibly address it. Maybe their fears are unfounded, maybe they're opposed to some inescapable fact of reality; regardless of what their motive is they're shooting themselves in the foot, and sometimes I'll try to help them see it. Otherwise I'll stop addressing their points at all.

When I think other people are drifting things get a bit more complicated.

 

37 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

If I had to hazard a guess about "drifting," I would say that the characteristic difference between that and "evasion" is how evasion works as a self-defense mechanism, as I'd described. Thus the practical difference is, one may "drift" with respect to anything, and we might expect drifting to be a rather haphazard phenomenon accordingly. A scattering of error through insufficient focus, if you will. But evasion we can expect to cluster around specific topics -- with something like purpose -- resulting in the phenomenon that we sometimes describe as "compartmentalization," where a person may be extraordinarily clear-sighted in certain areas of thought, and impossibly cloudy in others. There's more to that than simple "drift."

Yes. It's like missing a turn while you're driving because you're also lighting a cigarette and messing with the radio; it's one of those things that can happen to anybody, at any time, if they're being careless. And it definitely impacts things here, but yeah: it's not like everyone who's ever commented on IP rights (for example) did so while cruising down the highway.

 

14 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

I've not yet watched Onkar's presentation.

I highly recommend it. Towards the end he gets into moral responsibility (how the difference between "errors of ignorance" and "evasion" isn't actually binary and how to gauge degrees of either one), which I found invaluable in my own life. Very good stuff.

 

43 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

I'm not certain that "accidental" is the right word for how I view evasion, but I believe that it is subconscious. That means that it is not a conscious choice -- to evade or not to evade -- but that it happens on a level apart from our conscious decision-making process. (If it ever occurred to you, "should I evade this right now?" then, whatever it is you're doing -- you're not evading! ;))

That's interesting. I've always thought of evasion as a consciously chosen thing (which is also how it seemed back when I called it "faith"). I'll have to come back to that in an hour or two.

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4 hours ago, dream_weaver said:
14 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I think that what I mean by pursing the experience of being proven wrong by others is to create a general attitude or mindset that fosters the ability to recognize a contradiction; so I don't see this as choosing one versus the other, but aspects of the same general approach. This is in contrast to those who dread being proven wrong (I suspect a common condition), which I think hampers and impairs the ability to recognize a contradiction through evasion.

This still strikes me as an inversion. It stems from the knowledge that being right is not automatic. It is a choice. Once that choice to be right is selected, this sets in motion the identification of what elements need be in place to be right.

Insofar as "being right is a choice," as you say, we must identify the requisite elements to be right (inclusive of all that man requires habitually to be right). The mindset I advocate is not an "inversion" of this, but an expression of it. Or in other words, if you choose to be right (generally speaking, or characteristically), then you should not despise the experience of being proven wrong, but value it -- because I believe that such a mindset or orientation will assist you in the lifelong project of recognizing contradictions among your thoughts.

And insofar as you despise the experience of being wrong, or being shown wrong, as so many do, I believe you will be more prone to the phenomenon of evasion, which is not under direct conscious control but can be addressed obliquely through the conscious choices you make, and the attitudes you cultivate within yourself.

4 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

It is the act of taking responsibility for one's own rightness. Why would I want to delegate that responsibility to others?

But this is taking responsibility for one's own rightness. To get recursive for a moment, if I am right about this (as I believe that I am) and you do not heed me (accounting to a lack of focus), then you have failed yourself in your responsibility; you will not be correct, so often or so much as you could have been -- accounting to your own choice.

It's not a question of delegating one's responsibility to others. That's like saying that the CEO delegates the success of his concern to his workers; but no, it is through the rational management of his workers (in part) that the CEO accepts responsibility for the success of his concern and fulfills it.

The phrase "being proven wrong by others" is furthermore specific to the context of debate and conversation (such as this forum hosts), which I thought particularly relevant and worthy of consideration, but that's not the only context in which the mindset I describe is necessary. A man alone on a desert island must be searching for his mistakes just as much, or more, and he must greet the discovery of these mistakes (so long as he can survive them) with something like gratitude; it is the scientist's mindset, who does not look at the "failure" of a given hypothesis as bad, but as knowledge gained, and a necessary step taken towards further or eventual success. (I would expect that in the history of science, there have been scientists who either so desperately wanted to be right -- or not to be wrong -- that they made critical and uncharacteristic failures in their interpretation of vital results; fundamentally, this is the same sort of phenomenon.)

Evasion, at its heart, is a kind of "looking away." And I maintain that the reason why people look away in this fashion -- albeit subconsciously -- is because they do not want to be wrong, on a deep level. And so, I believe that one large part (though not the entirety) of the battle against evasion is to cultivate an appreciation for the experience of being wrong -- said appreciation to be gained by understanding the vital role of being sometimes wrong in the pursuit of knowledge, and finally being right.

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5 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Why would I want to delegate that responsibility to others?

All right, I poorly expressed this.

By taking an active interest in the identification of what is right, it is not necessary for me to be proven wrong in order to identify if a particular proposition or set of propositions is/are right. All that is required is the ability to ascertain if the proposition(s) is/are in accord with reality. Consider the following quip from Galt's Speech.

Truth is the recognition of reality; reason, man's only means of knowledge, is his only standard of truth.

The most depraved sentence you can now utter is to ask: Whose reason? The answer is: Yours.

If I find a man, or group of men that exhibit superior reasoning skills, I can learn from their reasoning skills, per my own reckoning. There is no need to be proven wrong in such a case, is there?

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48 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

All right, I poorly expressed this.

Since it is in some respects the raison d'etre of this thread, I'd like to highlight this sort of behavior as being decidedly anti-evasion.

Quote

By taking an active interest in the identification of what is right, it is not necessary for me to be proven wrong in order to identify if a particular proposition or set of propositions is/are right. All that is required is the ability to ascertain if the proposition(s) is/are in accord with reality.

I suspect that you may hear something more in "proven wrong" than I intend. I'm unsure. But suppose you attempt some math problem and arrive at an answer -- do you think it fair to say, at such a point, that you believe that the answer to the problem is X? Then, however, your teacher comes to your desk to check your work and demonstrates that you have made an error in your calculations. The teacher shows you how to arrive at the correct answer, Y.

In coming to understand that the answer is Y, you are making good on your ability to identify whether the proposition X or Y is right/in accord with reality. There is no moral failure here, nothing to be feared or lamented; in offering correction, the teacher is your ally and your benefactor. (But do some children resent being corrected in this manner? Yes, some do. Some teachers resent being corrected as well, and if you're ever interested, I have some stories...)

Yet with respect to the belief that you'd once held, that X is correct, I think it's fair to say that you were "proven wrong." If that still sounds threatening, I guess my point is that it should not be considered so. It's more cause for celebration than mourning. (Though I'd guess that the celebration at correcting one's math problem would be... fairly muted.)

And hopefully to head off the potential for continued misunderstanding on this point, I should specify that the above does not require a teacher, or more than one person at all; one may equally believe something to be true on a desert island, or anywhere else, and be "proven wrong" by the results of one's actions/further evidence/reality.

Quote

If I find a man, or group of men that exhibit superior reasoning skills, I can learn from their reasoning skills, per my own reckoning. There is no need to be proven wrong in such a case, is there?

Your own reckoning is all that you have... and "superior reasoning skills" are not necessarily required for one person to be right, another wrong, on any given topic; given evasion, given compartmentalization, given alone the self-generated requirements of honest thought, etc., etc., a man can have outstanding reasoning skills -- and yet be wrong with respect to a given point. A man with fewer such skills may be right. If you are ever to recognize yourself as wrong, well, you must be the one to do it, no matter what anyone else has to say or how you account their reasoning skills.

And yet, when your own reason is appealed to (just as I am attempting to do), this is rightly described as being proved wrong (or "shown wrong," if you would prefer to reserve "proven" for more specific applications) should it result in the abandonment of some once-held belief X for some new belief Y. Insofar as your reason leads you to prefer Y to X, believing Y to better accord to reality, then there is no reason for you to want not to be proven wrong in this fashion, or to call it something other than what it is. There is (or ought to be) no loss of ego here. It is not a loss to let go of wrong belief, no matter if someone else has helped you along the way; it is still an individual, personal victory.

Before I read Ayn Rand, I held many beliefs that later turned out to be wrong. Rand proved me wrong. And I take full credit for my own reasoning skills, and reckoning, by which I came to recognize the truth of her arguments and cast aside my earlier errors. Had I held onto my old errors (because they were accounted "mine," the products of my own precious reasoning, and bound to my ego), well, we would not be having this conversation today, and I would be much the worse for it.

Edited by DonAthos

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8 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

If you are ever to recognize yourself as wrong, well, you must be the one to do it.

Bingo. Honing the ability to identify that which is correct (whether in yourself or another) and accept it.

Like calling the promise to start a thread like this a threat, I fear my "superior reasoning skills" comment may have been an exaggeration in the heat of the moment to place more emphasis on the point. "Proper reasoning skills" would have been a better way to articulate it.

As to the use of "proven wrong", it seems a "negative" way of expressing what what appears to be a description of the same phenomenon.

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3 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:
29 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

If you are ever to recognize yourself as wrong, well, you must be the one to do it.

Bingo. Honing the ability to identify that which is correct (whether in yourself or another) and accept it.

[...]

As to the use of "proven wrong", it seems a "negative" way of expressing what what appears to be a description of the same phenomenon.

And yet the specific endeavor of identifying that which is correct -- and moreover rejecting that which was previously held to be correct, but now recognized as incorrect -- which I think is fairly described as being "proven wrong," has, in my opinion, the potential to trigger the specific subconscious defense mechanism of evasion.

I am reminded of a passage in a book I'm currently reading, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, wherein he relates an anecdote (pp 320-1):

Quote

I have previously told the story of a respected elder statesman of the Zoology Department at Oxford when I was an undergraduate. For years he had passionately believed, and taught, that the Golgi Apparatus (a microscopic feature of the interior of cells) was not real: an artefact, an illusion. Every Monday afternoon it was the custom for the whole department to listen to a research talk by a visiting lecturer. One Monday, the visitor was an American cell biologist who presented completely convincing evidence that the Golgi Apparatus was real. At the end of the lecture, the old man strode to the front of the hall, shook the American by the hand and said -- with passion -- "My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years." We clapped our hands red.

In both the old man's description of himself as having been "wrong," and in his attitude -- his gratitude of being shown wrong, proven wrong -- I find a concrete presentation of both what I advocate, and the results I aim for.

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Let me toss a curve ball out then. Why can't I remain undecided on particular matters of fact until I have the evidence I require to accept it as right? I reiterate my question. Is it required/necessary to be proven wrong in order to finally acknowledge what is right?

Edited by dream_weaver

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8 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Is it required/necessary to be proven wrong in order to finally acknowledge what is right?

If one's priorities, one's hierarchy of values, do not allow one to explore that area of knowledge, YES, the only way to realize a mistake is via being proven wrong by another person or accurate device. 

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7 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

If one's priorities, one's hierarchy of values, do not allow one to explore that area of knowledge, YES, the only way to realize a mistake is via being proven wrong by another person or accurate device. 

Let me restructure the question on the table for you.

20 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

If "Why can't I remain undecided on particular matters until I have the evidence I require to accept it as right?"
Then "Is it required/necessary to be proven wrong in order to finally acknowledge what is right?"

 

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8 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I'm not certain that "accidental" is the right word for how I view evasion, but I believe that it is subconscious. That means that it is not a conscious choice -- to evade or not to evade -- but that it happens on a level apart from our conscious decision-making process. (If it ever occurred to you, "should I evade this right now?" then, whatever it is you're doing -- you're not evading! ;))

After reviewing Ghate's speech, I think you might be right. And I was wrong. Now I have to go track down that Seppuku knife.

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8 hours ago, DonAthos said:

If I had to hazard a guess about "drifting," I would say that the characteristic difference between that and "evasion" is how evasion works as a self-defense mechanism, as I'd described. Thus the practical difference is, one may "drift" with respect to anything, and we might expect drifting to be a rather haphazard phenomenon accordingly. A scattering of error through insufficient focus, if you will. But evasion we can expect to cluster around specific topics -- with something like purpose -- resulting in the phenomenon that we sometimes describe as "compartmentalization," where a person may be extraordinarily clear-sighted in certain areas of thought, and impossibly cloudy in others. There's more to that than simple "drift."

Yes, a specific purpose, the one that fits best is the protection of one's self-worth. An attack on self-worth is a trigger for evasion. In general, the more attacks on self-worth in a discussion, the more evasion there is. Old world cultures know this fact so their public deal making takes (the other's side's) "saving face" into consideration. As far as I can remember Branden did make a reference to that.

The other purpose of (internal) evasion is to prevent the possibility of one's worldview to fall apart. Just imagine, if one day, you found out that socialism in fact worked. It would feel like you are being tricked, "it can't be true" etc. Suspicion can be overwhelming. Leftists also go through that too, they think "what my parents told me, what my tribe believes, all the people I admire told me that socialism works and that capitalism is a virus that needs to be stamped out".  If one piece of the fabric of knowledge goes in doubt then, what else did these "admired people" say that was wrong. Now I can't count on anything. I am suddenly nothing if I believe that Capitalism works. I have to start all over, all the respect I have accumulated is gone. No, No, it is easier to push the thought away and push the people that bring the thought away too.

Which means that it is to an Objectivist's self-interest to be gentle/understanding in these types of discussions otherwise the opponent is cornered/encouraged to evade.

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On ‎10‎/‎21‎/‎2017 at 2:08 PM, DonAthos said:

I think that, to lesser or greater extents, evasion is a subconscious means of such self or "ego" preservation.

DA:

I will take this, or something like it, as an indication of your general thesis of evasion.

At this point, one might ask, is there a distinction to be made between the act/process of evasion, and the motivation or reason behind its appearance when it occurs?

 

I think you have identified a single such motivation which is observable in a wide class of people, namely, "being right".  There are people who simply are "right fighters", they fight, not for the specific substance of their views, or even their own rational assessment of it (this is what they actually are avoiding) but of some superficial unthinking label of the "rightness" of it.  It may be invalid and empty but that is what the evasion permits to the person.

So, some people, those in this wide class, REALLY CARE about being superficially right.  In the face of facts or logic which tend to threaten WHAT they really care about, the psychological defense mechanism evasion comes to the rescue.

But people really care about many different things, and incidentally, people have markedly different levels of "ego".

 

Some people, a great many people, who are not right fighters, and do not care whether they are correct in respect of almost any aspect of life, really care about Faith.  They might not care what others believe or even care about what others think of them, but their relationship with God is their HIGHEST value, and their relationship with God EXPLICITLY and crucially depends upon their having Faith.  The humblest of the God lovers would evade all thinking, in fact being right about anything on Earth, in order to maintain their faith in God for the sake of that relationship.  Some other non-right-fighter people fancy things which are unrealistic, be it supernaturalism, the "efficacy" of altruism, some subjective desires etc. these have put great value in "their wish"  which clashes with reality.  Others simply want to live without having to think or care about consequences, they'd like to simply believe in a kind of "luck", "it wont happen to me" ... these value a "care free existence" (which itself a contradiction because of course continued existence is impossible to a creature who is careless)

These classes of people, who may have very humble "egos", have aspects of their psyche (OTHER than "I like to be right"), which requires the use of the psychological defense mechanism of evasion to continually protect. 

Faith, their wish, some other subjective want which they wish to assert in contradiction with reality... all of these are sufficient and very prevalent examples of a motivation for the mechanism of evasion to be invoked.

Evasion is not only used by highly intelligent and otherwise rational people who tend to be motivated about being "right",  who are smart enough to know that being wrong would be disastrous, it is used by many who see no connection between ideas and life.  Evasion, is used by the unintelligent and the rarely rational, and in many cases it is the very thing which shields some people from intelligence and rationality their entire lives. 

 

It is not the idea that ideas and being right are important which invokes evasion in most people, it is the psychological aspect they have put in the place of ideas and being truly right which are important to these mentalities.

 

Although evasion is a psychological defense mechanism which can be used to defend a right fighter's delusion of "being right", evasion is defense mechanism "par excellance" used by mentalities holding in high subjective value, ANY psychological aspects which contradicts reality, and which need to be somehow protected from facts and logic. 

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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Following up my quote, other types of evasion I would propose, include those aspects of the following, which constitute the suspension of belief in reality, or the recognition of some fact:

procrastination: inherently includes the evasion that the putting off of something important (e.g. putting off studying for an Exam, reducing the total time used studying) will threaten its achievement... this allows the excuse of valuing its replacement (the fun one experiences having a party instead of studying) as justifiable, since there really is no downside.

avoidant behavior: very similar to procrastination but includes things that are avoided (not just put off).  e.g. the cases you can see in any medical textbook, where some person with a clearly serious illness simply avoids the doctor, in hopes the illness will simply go away, and in part because going to the doctor would represent an acceptance of something undesirable, a serious condition, as though not facing the issue would wipe out its existence.

self-delusions: after the fact or during the fact of morally culpable behavior, engaging in the delusion that things are not what they are so as to escape the consequences of accepting them, a doctor who acted negligently uses evasion to deny his responsibility, claims to himself that some outcome was unavoidable or that something he actually should have known was really not something he could have known, or maybe a rapist claiming to himself during or after an act of rape that there is consent... that the facts indicate consent when in fact neither the indications nor the consent is present.

 

Any others?

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Any others?

Monday morning quarterbacking: criticizing the actions or decisions of others after the fact, using hindsight not considering the lack of knowledge that existed at the time.

And subconscious convenient forgetfulness (not dementia). "I did not say that" and when you see the video, you see that you had said it.

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Put in slightly different ways than expressed heretofore:

"Denial of death" - I've heard of people denying they are dying, or remaining in denial or disbelief, right till they draw their last breath (its likely a variant of the "your wish" evasion)

The "have your cake and eat it too" attitude is inherently a form of evasion (another variant of "your wish" evasion)

 

Hmm... is there any evasion that cannot be viewed as a "your wish" conflicts with reality so deny it - type of thing?

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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On 10/22/2017 at 9:04 AM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

As for dealing with evasion, I usually try to determine why they're evading and possibly address it.

[...]

When I think other people are drifting things get a bit more complicated.

This is not really a direct response to your post, but something about this struck me, and I'd like to remark on it:

I think it is both important and understandable when we focus on evasion (or "drifting") as something that other people do, and how to recognize it, and how to respond. But I think that it might even be more important -- or at least a topic that I want to explore as much or more -- to consider how to recognize evasion in our own thoughts, and how to limit it, if possible, and address it when it happens.

Based on my experience, what I've witnessed in myself and others, I don't think a simple admonition "don't evade" is going to cut it... :)

Quote

I highly recommend [Onkar's presentation]. Towards the end he gets into moral responsibility (how the difference between "errors of ignorance" and "evasion" isn't actually binary and how to gauge degrees of either one), which I found invaluable in my own life. Very good stuff.

I've subsequently watched it and enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing.

23 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Let me toss a curve ball out then. Why can't I remain undecided on particular matters of fact until I have the evidence I require to accept it as right? I reiterate my question. Is it required/necessary to be proven wrong in order to finally acknowledge what is right?

Why "can't" you remain undecided? Who says that you cannot? You may remain undecided... or you may come to any given conclusion, on any given matter. But over the course of making a lifetime's worth of decisions (and this includes all decisions to "remain undecided"), forming a lifetime's worth of beliefs, I expect that you will sometimes err. And when you err, you will (ideally) want to correct yourself.

You do not necessarily require the assistance of others to achieve this self-correction, but sometimes others can offer you assistance (as this forum, again ideally, would stand testament). I believe that after the process of self-correction, it is appropriate to describe yourself (with respect to your earlier state, your earlier beliefs and/or choices) as having been "wrong." If you object to the specific choice of terms for some reason... well, I find that interesting (and perhaps to speak to the necessity of my message overall) -- but I think this process is aptly described as "being proven wrong" or "being shown wrong," as in, "I used to believe that there was some good in socialism... but Ayn Rand showed me that I was wrong. She proved it." And I further argue that 1) this is a good thing, being proven wrong in this way; and 2) that people should accordingly come to value the experience of it, rather than dread it -- as I believe most do -- such that it helps to inspire the subconscious phenomenon of evasion, which I believe it does.

It's funny. Harrison recommending the Onkar presentation to me inspired me to seek out a presentation of Leonard Peikoff's on "Volition and Causality" I remembered reading once, and in it I stumbled across this anecdote (heavily edited for compactness; please refer to the link for greater clarity/meaning and context):

Quote

I'll just recount for you one...conversation I had with Ayn Rand. I used to constantly ask her to this effect, "I can't imagine an unmotivated action." [...] She said, "For instance, it's very common in developing babies..." [...] I found that helpful when she pointed that out to me, because I have this rationalistic dogma."

Much like the account from The God Delusion, this is an example of both what I mean by "being proven wrong," and what I contend is the proper attitude to have regarding it.

He also says this, which I find enlightening in a host of ways regarding this and associated topics (not least of which being the matter he is actually addressing -- how the choice "to focus" relates to our experience of conscious decision making):

Quote

Now, when I say that all higher-level choices reduce to the primary choice, I know from years of experience that there are going to be people who misinterpret that. Everything in philosophy is subject to misinterpretation. I guess everything in everything is. But when I say all higher-level choices reduce to the primary choice, let me ask you, "Is that the same as saying we really only have one choice to focus or not? And then once we make that choice everything thereafter happens automatically?" Is that the same thing? It is not. If you think it is, you're completely confused. I say that, because I once thought that. I thought everything wrong at some point.

[...]

So, you can go around many ways here, but what I'm trying to separate for you is the basic choice which is irreducible, the higher-level choices which are real, but not irreducible (although when you reduce them to the primary choice, that doesn't mean you obliterate them). You got that? That is the benefit of decades of antagonizing Ayn Rand to the point where she couldn't talk about this issue anymore. She was just fed up, but I was still confused. But I finally got that put together in my mind this way...

There's a lot I could say about this passage (including my thoughts on the subject matter, where I suspect that I have a very slight disagreement... but ah, for another time, another thread), but what I'd like to focus on for the purpose of this thread, and this sub-topic, is Peikoff's ready identification of himself as having been wrong about various topics at various points (which is no slight against him; so far as I'm concerned, it will equally describe every human from the dawn of time to the dusk), and it also highlights the role of another (in this case Rand) in helping him to see his own errors, and correct them, and it also demonstrates the difficulty we sometimes find in honest thought. And that last is another hugely important sub-topic for this subject, lest we accuse everyone who is wrong (by our own standards) as guilty of evasion.

For sometimes you'll see on this forum (and I'm guilty of this, too) people grow frustrated with each other for not grasping some subtle point after a handful of exchanges. But can you imagine a mind like Peikoff's (if we grant that he has a decent one, an educated one, a truth-seeking one, etc.), with direct access to Ayn Rand herself -- not alone in this attenuated form, but face-to-face discussion -- for years and years... and still struggling to grasp a concept?

That should allow us to take some heart in our sometimes failures, and perhaps also to extend greater sympathy (and "benefit of the doubt") to those who continue to struggle to grasp what we, ourselves, understand.

Edited by DonAthos

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