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Discussing Santa Claus with Fiancee

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In what way is it more benevolent to play along with the tooth fairy myth than to simply have a ritual where parents pay for teeth? [Note, I say "ritual" to stress that there is something more than simply handing over cash in a clinical way.] Our son gets a dollar for every tooth, and we kid him that the tooth fairy left it -- but it's a game and he knows it. Part of the game is how we manage to slip it under his pillow without him knowing! I don't think he would enjoy it better if he sincerely believed a tooth fairy existed.
Okay so you make it clear that he doesn't "sincerely", in some full adult sense of the term, believes that an actual tooth fairy is real. But he clearly doesn't believe you are the one sneaking in a dollar bill while he's unaware, right? That's what I'm talking about, a balance between completely real, and completely fake. Please note that no one here, (or in history of Santa), has advocated teaching him as a completely real person, and insisting very powerfully that the child believe and understand how real he is. That's never happened.

Take another ritual: birthday celebrations. I think a birthday celebration is a great event -- it's the one day that one celebrates no particular achievement, but the individual's existence, as such. I know of no common myths associated with birthdays, but it would be easy to invent one: say a story about a birthday stork -- the stork that brought the kid to the world returns each year, bringing goodies like chocolate cake and ice-cream! Perhaps adding such a story would make the event more fun.
Well this is a cultural point. Some cultures do have fantasy birthday celebrations and mythology, while having nothing about tooth fairies. In America we have a tooth fairy but no birthday storks. You have to remember that each new generation of parents doesn't somehow abstractly outline which and which myths it will teach, and which imaginary characters it will play make-believe with. It is a cultural issue, we live in a larger culture and generally adopt the fantasy creatures popular throughout the culture; if someone moves to a different country, they may choose to retain the old make-believe or adopt the ones in their new country, and no one will blame them for their choice. The over-arching point is that fantasy or make believe as such are okay, are in no way Jesus-like in hands of any reasonable parent, and so whichever ones you choose are entirely up to you.

It's an understatement to say that children love pretend play. Much of their life is spent on pretend-play, and they sometimes pretend-play with a very serious intensity. Most of what they do is pretending to be the adults and "super adults" they aspire to be. All along though, kids also retain a clear idea of what is real and what is pretend. I don't think that confusing them on the issue (by claiming that some pretend aspect is real) adds any value.
I agree with you, but here we have different definitions for "real" and "make believe", hence our differing opinions. How you answer my response to your first quote determines where we'll go from here. Edited by Free Capitalist

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Inspector, no tone other than slightly sarcastic was intended, sorry. But anyhow, the problem with your scenario above is, why have Santa in the first place? What's the point then? You asked earlier why I so categorically rejected the "in the know" scenario, and the reason is -- it'd be utterly pointless.

But my position is that the making-it-real-to-the-child aspect of Santa Claus is pointless. I don't see a benefit to it. As Softwarenerd said, kids love make-believe, and don't need you to tell them that there actually is a real magical elf to have fun. I don't see the point in confusing them; I don't see what it adds.

Either you create a make-believe or a fairy tale that has some reality to the child, or you don't even bring up fairy tales in the first place.

I don't agree with that. Children play games all the time where they know it isn't real, and I don't think that stuff is any less fun for them.

you don't fool him to a degree that he starts believing it fully, and you don't make it real to him to the degree that actual objects are real.
This distinction doesn't exist, especially for a child. Either something is real to them, or it isn't. To a child, Santa Claus is just as real as anything else that is unseen. If you say that your television is from Japan, then the child has something that is unseen (Japan), but which has evidence of its existence (the TV). It's the same with Santa.

The answer is simple. I'll quote what I myself said earlier:

I don't see how decieving the child about the nature of reality is necessary to achieve that effect, or particularly helpful. As I said before, it does not matter to a child wether the gifts come from a fat man in a red suit, or from the parents. What matters is that he is rewarded for being good. None of that benevolence requires that Santa be presented as real.

So, yes, I agree that the ritual is benevolent. However, I question the necessity for myth.

Or, to put it more precisely, I question the necessity for the myth to be presented as real.

Edited by Inspector

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Okay, then I simply do not understand how you can present a make-believe without it having some substance to it. Perhaps SoftwareNerd's response to my post will clarify the issue. I mean, children play make-believe all the time but it is real to them when they play it, just as we adults engage in make-believe all the time (by watching movies) and it has some reality to us when we're doing it. The worst thing to do in the middle of a good movie is to start thinking that what we're seeing is not really happening, that when we see a great throne room in front of us it is actually just a set with cameras behind us, that this great hero is actually some guy who merely pretends and probably himself shares none of those qualities, that the great dramatic conflict is merely a clever plot device and actually has no significance since it's all fake anyway (since it deals with all fake characters), etc. The only way any of these things have significance is if we attach some reality to them, and stripping all reality from a make-believe destroys it. There is a role for fantasy in everyday life, which is not quite real but not quite fake either.

Edited by Free Capitalist

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Okay, then I simply do not understand how you can present a make-believe without it having some substance to it. Perhaps how SoftwareNerd responds to my post will clarify the issue. I mean, children play make-believe all the time but it is real to them when they play it, just as we adults engage in make-believe all the time (by watching movies) and it has some reality to us when we're doing it. The worst thing to do in the middle of a good movie is to start thinking that what we're seeing is not really happening, that when we see a great throne room in front of us it is actually a fake set and there are tons of cameras behind us, that this great hero is actually some guy who merely pretends and probably shares none of those qualities himself, that the great dramatic conflict is merely a clever plot device and actually has no significance since it's all fake anyway (since it deals with all fake characters), etc. The only way any of these things have significance is if we attach some reality to them, and stripping all reality from a make-believe destroys it.

Santa is distinctively different from a movie or a book where animals talk because he is presented as real by the parents by their attempts to fabricate evidence for his actual existence. "Look, he took a bite out of the cookie", etc.

My girlfriend in her class, when reading a book to the 3-6 year olds will pause and ask a question like, "Ducks don't really talk, do they?", to guide the children into critical thinking with regard to irrational claims because younger children actually lack the contextual knowledge necessary to make that distinction. Consider all of the prerequisite knowledge necessary for the explination you gave of how movies are made. You are able to suspend reality and have it be enjoyable because of the knowledge you possess. If someone showed you a film in which nuclear explosions were going off in NYC and told you it was a news release rather then a film, then the movie scenario would compare to the way that santa is presented.

edit:to answer your question more directly, the key distinction is whether or not you are suspending belief as a visual game or actually believing reality is different then it is.

Edited by aequalsa

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The only way any of these things have significance is if we attach some reality to them, and stripping all reality from a make-believe destroys it. There is a role for fantasy in everyday life, which is not quite real but not quite fake either.

If you tell them that Santa isn't real off the bat, then that's out of the way and you don't have to mention it again (unless the kid asks). From there, you do the standard stuff including clever things like jingling bells and leaving sacks of presents. Have you ever been to Disney world? The guys in the rubber suits are obviously not real, but that doesn't make it any less fun for kids. It doesn't matter if they know it's a game; it's still a game and it's still a jolly old time. Sure, it would suck all the fun out of it if you constantly remind the tyke that it's a game. I'm not suggesting that.

Edited by Inspector

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Because the burden of proof is on the Santa-as-real crowd to prove that it is worth doing.
Why? Do I also have to prove to my (hypothetical) wife that smiling at my (hypothetical) child is worth doing?

Because the stories are out there, so if the kid doesn't know them, he will be confused.
But it's not necessary to tell kids the story of The Three Little Pigs in order to prevent them from being confused. Since all that matters is that they aren't confused, we simply tell kids that pigs don't build houses and wolves don't blow them down. This is faster and eliminates the chance that the child might get confused by being told the story.

There's no need to tell any fairy tale; so why should it ever be done?

Why not create a myth of a benevolent God who will reward the good and punish the evil, and who is always there to turn to, and who lives inside oneself as one's own conscience -- so that one must turn to one's own soul and face oneself honestly when making decisions. Wouldn't that be benevolent too?
I wouldn't think so. Such a myth becomes malignant when it espouses harmful behaviors. [Assuming that such a myth means that one should depend on one's divinely guided conscience for moral guidance.] Santa (as far as I know) doesn't particularly encourage any harmful behaviors.

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Why? Do I also have to prove to my (hypothetical) wife that smiling at my (hypothetical) child is worth doing?

How about we use a better example. Suppose she says that pointing a laser pointer at his head is worth doing. Wouldn't you want some kind of proof, first? I doubt it would do much harm (as long as your hand is steady), but you'd be wasting your time, doing someting pointless if nothing else.

There's no need to tell any fairy tale; so why should it ever be done?

Are you asking that I prove something is useful? Hmmmm?

First of all, lots of people do the Santa Claus thing. He's all over TV and malls, etc. If you don't tell the kid about it, he'll be confused. Now, I agree with Free Capitalist that the myth is benevolent. So that's a reason to have the fun (oh, and it being fun is also a reason). I just don't agree that it is in any way necessary or gainful to present the myth as real.

Edited by Inspector

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If someone showed you a film in which nuclear explosions were going off in NYC and told you it was a news release rather then a film, then the movie scenario would compare to the way that santa is presented. (emphasis mine)

With all due respect, I think you guys are dropping the context here. The context is not that we should teach Santa Claus to adults; that has never been the point. So you have to ask yourselves the question, what fundamental difference is there between teaching Santa to an adult, and teaching him to a child. And the answer is that a child is simply too ignorant about the world to care, or for it to make a difference to him whether an actual Santa exists or not. It's much in the same way as why Dr. Peikoff called the Greek religion a secular religion, as it was not based on any negation of reality, merely a hypothetical addition to it. That's what Santa is, a guy that could exist. Notice that when children start asking, "But how can Santa visit everyone on Christmas Eve", this is not a happy moment for the parents. They are not eager with joy to explain the mystical elements and make Santa totally incomprehensible. Instead, he starts out totally comprehensible, to the mind of a small child, and when the child grows up enough to start seeing problems with the Santa idea, then that means he merely grows out of it. The point, the context, is that we are teaching about Santa to a small child only, and at an age when he doesn't care or does not notice yet any possible holes in the story. The benefits of this teaching we already all agreed upon, namely the benevolence, and my point about teaching morality.

So the last issue is Inspector's, "I just don't agree that it is in any way necessary or gainful to present the myth as real." For Santa to have any authority as an actual benevolent figure, and an actual moral authority similar to a parent, he has to be actual in some sense. I repeat that I don't mean a parent proves and demands acknowledgement of Santa's full existence (notwithstanding aequalsa's unfortunate personal childhood experiences, as being entirely abnormal). I mean that when parents talk to their child about Santa, they say it as if he really is out there, and the child believes he really is out there (as I did). It should never go beyond that, and shouldn't be critically thought about because then the myth will dissipate. So why do it at all? Again, because only an actual Santa has any relevance as an authority or a benevolent figure, and at a very young age all of our complicated philosophical problems simply do not matter and have no relevance to a child. I repeat, that Santa's instantaneous travel is a problem, not a cause of delight, for parents, because otherwise Santa is an entirely possible figure. Personifying in him all of the benevolent qualities of men is simply a way to make clear to a child problems that are far beyond his age, so that he starts thinking and absorbing them long before he could conceptually arrive at them himself.

Edited by Free Capitalist

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I just wanted to add this as a side note, because I saw a couple points saying that it is better to teach children the philosophical reasons behind moral behavior rather than simply using rewards to teach the way Santa does.

Study by L. Kohlberg (1963) - The development of children's orientations toward a moral order: Sequence in the development of moral thought. Examined and explained in Forty Studies that Changed Psychology, 5th edition, by Roger R. Hock.

Method of study - Kohlberg presented 10 hypothetical moral dilemmas to children of different ages. The reasoning used to reach answers was analyzed.

Findings: Kohlberg arrived at 6 stages of moral reasoning, grouped into three levels. Level 1 (premoral level) includes stage 1 - consequence of actions determine right and wrong, and stage 2 - satisfaction of immediate needs determines right and wrong. Level 2 (morality of conventional role-conformity) starts with stage 3 - what pleases others is good, and stage 4 - following authority. Level 3 (morality of self-accepted moral principles) has stage 5, where morality is determined by society's values and individual rights, and stage 6 - "right and wrong are a matter of individual philosophy according to universal principles," where the law can be wrong and disobeyed when it is - a stage Kohlberg found few reach and where (I hope) many of the people on this forum are. I think 'be a good boy,' or using Santa as motivation, pretty much represents moral reasoning up until stage 4 is reached. Kohlberg found that it wasn't until age 13 when half the children had progressed past stage 3, and at age 7 70% of them used stage 1 to figure out right and wrong. Santa is very good for teaching right and wrong when they are at that stage. "... A child is literally incapable of understanding or using stage 3 moral reasoning before passing through stages 1 and 2." So we should probably teach them using the methods they understand until they're capable of higher reasoning...

Hopefully this wasn't too much off-topic.

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Okay so you make it clear that he doesn't "sincerely", in some full adult sense of the term, believes that an actual tooth fairy is real. But he clearly doesn't believe you are the one sneaking in a dollar bill while he's unaware, right? That's what I'm talking about, a balance between completely real, and completely fake. Please note that no one here, (or in history of Santa), has advocated teaching him as a completely real person, and insisting very powerfully that the child believe and understand how real he is. That's never happened.
I was about to write that if someone were to seriously quiz him about how the money got there, he'd say "I think mommy puts it there". I assumed that he'd still have a degree of uncertainty. Then I changed my mind, because it has been a while since he last lost a tooth, and he's 8 now. So, I simply asked him.

"Either you or mommy sneaks the money under my pillow." (Aside: Then, much to my surprise, he added, " and, I hope you're keeping my teeth somewhere safe".)

Guessing from my own acquaintances, I'd agree with you that very few (if any) parents make a big deal about insisting that Santa is a real guy, and that many kids soon catch on that it's just a game. However, I do know of one colleague who's daughter was quite upset [10 year old or thereabout] because she had just found out from her friends that Santa was not real. That tells me that she believed he was real in a sense that our son never has.

I understand parents who simply want to spin a magical story for their kids, in a completely benevolent way, and I'll even play along if I'm in a situation where I might otherwise spoil the illusion. However, I can see that my son enjoys stories like Superman and Harry Potter without the slightest hint of a belief that they could be true. When he dons a super-hero costume or a Harry Potter robe (or simply makes the mental shift in his mind), he becomes Superman or Potter, and a martian observing him might think that he really believes (except when he stops to say something like: "Dad, you're supposed to fight back").

So, I guess in essence I question the idea that thinking that a myth is real makes the myth more fun for a child.

When we told our son that Santa was a myth, it was not from a fear that it would confuse him. Really, it was something more personal -- he hangs on every word I say, as being near gospel truth (unless contradicted by a school-teacher), and I simply couldn't bring myself to lie to him in that context.

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it has been a while since he last lost a tooth, and he's 8 now. So, I simply asked him.

SN, notice that 8 years is really pushing it for Santa Claus and tooth fairies. I remember I was already growing out of Santa Claus idea by 7 or so, and was far too "sophisticated" by 8-9 to seriously accept such an idea. So instead of 8 year old children, I'm talking about 2-3-4 year old children here, real babies. Their cognitive thinking is in its infancy, literally, so what are we to do to teach them proper rules of behavior, and instill even more benevolence in them? Why not have a super-benevolent grandpa figure that always rewards them with wonderful gifts for being a good boy, even when they don't think their parents saw the good behavior and thus nobody noticed?

Really, it was something more personal -- he hangs on every word I say, as being near gospel truth (unless contradicted by a school-teacher), and I simply couldn't bring myself to lie to him in that context.
I know what you mean, and of course I would never say that we have to teach Santa Claus. I merely said that those that wanted to, should have no reason not to. To counterbalance your argument, I keep thinking about John Adams teaching his little boy about Santa, without there being any moral confusion about lying. You have to remember the enormous historical backdrop to Santa and to tooth fairies, centuries of more benevolent ages than ours, teaching the kids the same old benevolent stories.

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Why not have a super-benevolent grandpa figure that always rewards them with wonderful gifts for being a good boy, even when they don't think their parents saw the good behavior and thus nobody noticed?
This is an aside, but kids of that age (3 and below) actually think their parents are aware of all the things they (the kids) are aware of. A parent may not be present when something occurs, yet the kid does not fully realize that the parent did not see what he (the child) saw.

A second aside: a kid may actually feel guilt if he is given a gift that he thinks he does not deserve, for instance when he thinks the giver is not aware of the "bad" things he has done. Therefore one has to be judicious and targetted not just with criticism, but also with rewards. Saying a child is a "bad boy" is obviously wrong, but saying he is a "good boy" isn't perfect either.

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a child is simply too ignorant about the world to care, or for it to make a difference to him whether an actual Santa exists or not.

I am pretty certain this is the basis of our disagreement. You believe, as many have, that those first few years are relatively unimportant and have little impact since the child doesn't really "get it" anyways. I believe the exact opposite. I believe the first five years of a childs life are more important then the remaining 68 in the construction of their character and capacities. Seemingly small changes can have incredible impacts on rest of their lives. (incidentally, this view explains konerkos recent question regarding differences in personality between siblings who have, what seems from outside, to be the same experiences. The less obvious details are the ones to look at.) I realize we are not talking about teaching santa to adults(although I guarantee that you are teaching adults about god-in the eventual sense- by teaching children to believe in santa.

Think about it with regard to perception of time. Tell a 5 year old, he'll have to wait a year for a new bike and it is hardly indistinguisable from an eternity. Tell a 50 year old the same thing, and he knows that bike will be here and the year will be gone before he blinks an eye. The reason is 1 year is 20% of a 5 year olds life and only 2% of a 50 year old's. I submit that the evaluation of importance of things which occur to an individual happen on that same scale.

That's what Santa is, a guy that could exist.
Well, no he could not. You could have a guy named santa who exists and gives someone a present. He could not do any of those supernatural things which children are led to believe.

The benefits of this teaching we already all agreed upon, namely the benevolence, and my point about teaching morality.

I actually disagree that he teaches benevolence, unless you mean that in the christian sense of the word. I think he is a symbol of desiring the unearned, believing that good things can only be had in supernatural ways, trust in authority, and distrust of your senses and ability to reason. Though I dislike of his symbiology, it is very secondary to the inherent mysticism in his persona.

So the last issue is Inspector's, "I just don't agree that it is in any way necessary or gainful to present the myth as real." For Santa to have any authority as an actual benevolent figure, and an actual moral authority similar to a parent, he has to be actual in some sense. I repeat that I don't mean a parent proves and demands acknowledgement of Santa's full existence (notwithstanding aequalsa's unfortunate personal childhood experiences, as being entirely abnormal). I mean that when parents talk to their child about Santa, they say it as if he really is out there, and the child believes he really is out there (as I did). It should never go beyond that, and shouldn't be critically thought about because then the myth will dissipate. So why do it at all? Again, because only an actual Santa has any relevance as an authority or a benevolent figure, and at a very young age all of our complicated philosophical problems simply do not matter and have no relevance to a child. I repeat, that Santa's instantaneous travel is a problem, not a cause of delight, for parents, because otherwise Santa is an entirely possible figure. Personifying in him all of the benevolent qualities of men is simply a way to make clear to a child problems that are far beyond his age, so that he starts thinking and absorbing them long before he could conceptually arrive at them himself.

How are my "unfortunate childhood experience" entierly abnormal?(thanks for the pity by the way-really enjoy that) They seem consistent with what everyone else I have ever known had and are exactly what you seem to be advocating. Correct me if I am mistaken on that account.

Our philosophical problems are of the utmost importance to a child. They lack the capicity to understand it explicitly, but they absorb their surrounding philosphy implicitly. Seemingly small details, such as a disconnect between cause and effect, can prove disaterous in the long run. Consider a child who does something the parent considers to be wrong. Sometimes the parent laughs, other times they yell and punish the child(this happens often with alcoholics). What impact would that have on the childs ability to make decisions? It creates a world that is unintelligable. They cannot act long range because the predictability of the world is shot by the seeming lack of causal connections between their behaviour and results. Santa has this same sort of negative impact on a childs implicitly held philosophy

Now, admittedly, a child raised with a little bit of mysticism on a backdrop of reason will probably recover, but there would have to be some great good to be had by letting him believe his senses were invalid, in order to justify it. And so far we have that he learns to be "good" and not "bad" which means to the child, that he must obey authority to be a "good boy". And that he can be happy once a year because a non-real person will bring him stuff he didn't earn.

Now compare the philosophical effects of paying a child for additional chores to earn something he desires to the "if I wish it, I get it" belief. Which will help the child develop self-efficacy and independence? Which will give him a correct view of the way the world actually functions? Which will allow the long term benevolence and achievement in life and which causes disappointment from a sense of unfulfilled entitlement?

The proper end of child-rearing is to prepare the child for existence in this world. I just don't think that believing in santa helps towards that end.

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I just wanted to add this as a side note, because I saw a couple points saying that it is better to teach children the philosophical reasons behind moral behavior rather than simply using rewards to teach the way Santa does.

To clarify, I do not advocate teaching philosophy or its underlying reasons to young children. But I think the impact on their implicit belief structure is something a parent ought to take into consideration.

That seems like an interesting study. I look forward to reading it. Thanks for that.

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And that he can be happy once a year because a non-real person will bring him stuff he didn't earn.

Well then we have a more fundamental disagreement here than merely Santa Claus. Do you think there's any point to the birthday celebration, according to the above standards? If there's a day when a child gets "stuff he didn't earn", it's the birthday, when he receives gifts for absolutely nothing at all. Also, would you do away with the New Year celebration? There are many existential holidays in US culture, and it seems your standards would be far too strict for practically all of them.

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Well then we have a more fundamental disagreement here than merely Santa Claus. Do you think there's any point to the birthday celebration, according to the above standards? If there's a day when a child gets "stuff he didn't earn", it's the birthday, when he receives gifts for absolutely nothing at all. Also, would you do away with the New Year celebration? There are many existential holidays in US culture, and it seems your standards would be far too strict for practically all of them.

No...I view them as fundementally different. At a birthday, you recieve gifts as a testament of your value to others. Or give them to express the value of someones existence to you. Christmas is different in that, a mystical being magically delivers what you want if you have properly obeyed authority, ostensibly because it was jesus' birthday. Even if you exclude the actual jesusbased meaning of the holiday, it still has that element of the universe giving you what you wish for regardless of causally related effort. Not people who care about you expressing that. Typically, you recieve presents from people but you also give them presents on their birthdays. I'm all for celebrating existence, properly.

I have no problem with new years, or thanksgiving. Easter I don't care for, for mainly the same reasons. 4th of July I love. Of course, that might just be a result of my love for all things grilled...but I digress. The 4th I like because of what it represents. Labor day....eh...memmorial day I like. Not sure why it isnt combined with the 4th though.

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So, I guess in essence I question the idea that thinking that a myth is real makes the myth more fun for a child.

That's precisely my point as well. Kids would have as much fun with Santa-as-make-believe as they do with Santa-as-real. I like your example of your son playing Spider-man. That's just what I had in mind. As for the question of the reality of the lesson, Free Capitalist, you have your answer in the presents. Those are the way in which Santa is "actual in some sense."

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Suppose she says that pointing a laser pointer at his head is worth doing. Wouldn't you want some kind of proof, first? I doubt it would do much harm...
Emphasis mine. If it is necessarily dangerous, then it should be proven to be worth doing. But why must it be proven to be beneficial if it hasn't even been proven to be dangerous in the first place???

Are you asking that I prove something is useful? Hmmmm?
Not exactly. You were saying that telling fairy tales in such a way that it is not explicitly made known to be make-believe is dangerous, and I was asking whether this danger applies to when explicitly telling fairy tales as make-believe.

You are teaching adults about god-in the eventual sense- by teaching children to believe in santa.
Gwah. Am I the only one that thinks this is silly?

Let's say I tell a child some falsehood X.

If the child believes X because X is true within the context of the child's knowledge, the child is merely mistaken; epistemologically, it is a rational decision on the child's part and (if it is a benign mistake) it is not necessarily dangerous even if the child never finds out that X is false.

Now suppose the child believes X despite X being false (or arbitrary) within the context of the child's knowledge. Let's also say I tell the child some truth Y, and the child believes Y despite Y being false (or arbitrary) within the context of the child's knowledge.

If it is dangerous to tell the child X, is it also dangerous to tell the child Y?

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But why must it be proven to be beneficial if it hasn't even been proven to be dangerous in the first place???

Because there must be a reason to do anything that you propose to do, before you are justified in doing it.

Before you question danger, before it is even on the table to do something, there must first be a reason for doing it. This is primary. I am astounded that this is something I am required to explain to you. Exactly what is your impetus for action, if not posession of a reason? Since when was the formula, "if it isn't proven to be dangerous, do it!" (???)

Not exactly. You were saying that telling fairy tales in such a way that it is not explicitly made known to be make-believe is dangerous, and I was asking whether this danger applies to when explicitly telling fairy tales as make-believe.

That question makes no sense, then.

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Gwah. Am I the only one that thinks this is silly?

Let's say I tell a child some falsehood X.

If the child believes X because X is true within the context of the child's knowledge, the child is merely mistaken; epistemologically, it is a rational decision on the child's part and (if it is a benign mistake) it is not necessarily dangerous even if the child never finds out that X is false.

Now suppose the child believes X despite X being false (or arbitrary) within the context of the child's knowledge. Let's also say I tell the child some truth Y, and the child believes Y despite Y being false (or arbitrary) within the context of the child's knowledge.

If it is dangerous to tell the child X, is it also dangerous to tell the child Y?

I am assuming, that because you call it silly without explaining the flaw in my reasoning, that you have not read my prior posts, so I will attept to reexplain why they are connected and why your final statement is correct.

A young child's brain is not the same as an adult brain with less information. It is in a process of developing his very basic psycho-epistomological framework. During this period from 0-5, they form habits, learn language, develop facial expressions, learn how to walk, develop tendencies to speak loudly or quietly, absorb the basic elements of the culture they live in, learn to trust or not trust others and themselves, and most importantly to the discussion, develop the processes by which the figure things out(reason). They must learn things even as simple as a 3 inch diameter peg will not fit in a 1 inch diameter hole. It is not inherently obvious to them.

So when you tell them about santa it conflicts with their first hand knowledge in a number of ways. "last year, it took 8 hours to see grandma on the plain, but santa goes everywhere at once" "My dog doesn't fly, but reindeers do". A 400lb man can fit through a chimney or keyhole" etc. They do not possess the ability to make a reasoned judgement and they do trust their parents. The result is that they decide early that they shouldn't trust their own first hand knowledge. It puts a tiny fracture between them and reality.

In addition, the story of santa, once they are old enough to be told it, is identical in every important respect to god. The child is told that"If he is 'good', a mystical being that you cant see will give him free goodies, and he will be happy". So when the kid is 8 and stops believing in santa, they tell him "If he is 'good', a mystical being that you cant see will give you goodies after he dies, and he will be happy".

Does it lead directly to jesus? No, but it paves the way by eliminating their trust of their own senses, encouraging trust in authority, and creating the incorrect basis of how hapiness is achieved in their minds. I do not consider it silly at all.

Teaching a child that y is correct when it is outside the context of his knowledge is a mistake as well and I it is clever of you to make that connection. When children learn to write, for example, they usually write a number of letters backwards. Parents and teachers employing the more traditional prussian method, are quick to tell the child he is mistaken. What they do not realize, is that the child, literally, cannot see that their is a difference between their backward letter and a correct one. They are not yet able to hold that context. The correct thing to do is let them continue drawing them backwards. Once they fully grasp the actual shape, they will start to explore other elements such as direction and size. Knowledge during that developmental period must be kept within the context of their knowledge or the become frustrated and quickly lose interest.

Introspection about one's own experiences is not very useful because of the very different state that your brain is in once you start as compared to a young child.

Edited by aequalsa

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Before you question danger, before it is even on the table to do something, there must first be a reason for doing it.
Supposing a mother wants to do X with her child (e.g. teach the lyrics to a song or go grocery shopping). X in no way requires the husband's involvement. We agree that she has to have sufficient reason for doing X (e.g. it's fun for the mother and not detrimental to the child).

But in addition, you say that the wife has to prove to her husband that doing X is beneficial - why?

You call it silly without explaining the flaw in my reasoning
I apologize, I thought I had made my reasoning clear. I will make another attempt.

[santa]conflicts with [a child's] first hand knowledge in a number of ways. The result is that they decide early that they shouldn't trust their own first hand knowledge. It puts a tiny fracture between them and reality.
Evolution conflicts with a child's first hand knowledge in a number of ways. Therefore telling a child about evolution puts a fracture between the child and reality and encourages harmful trust in authority???

The story of santa is identical in every important respect to god. The child is told that"If he is 'good', a mystical being that you cant see will give him free goodies, and he will be happy". So when the kid is 8 and stops believing in santa, they tell him "If he is 'good', a mystical being that you cant see will give you goodies after he dies, and he will be happy".
The story of Santa says something specific and can thus be proven false - an important respect (which they are not identical in) that you forgot to mention.

[santa creates] the incorrect basis of how hapiness is achieved in their minds.
Santa's giving gifts to children for being good creates the incorrect basis of how happiness is achieved. So should I give gifts to children for being good?

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Supposing a mother wants to do X with her child (e.g. teach the lyrics to a song or go grocery shopping). X in no way requires the husband's involvement. We agree that she has to have sufficient reason for doing X (e.g. it's fun for the mother and not detrimental to the child).

But in addition, you say that the wife has to prove to her husband that doing X is beneficial - why?

I didn't say that. I said that before anyone does anything, they should have a reason why it is beneficial. This comes before the question of whether it would be detrimental. The default state is inaction. The burden is on anyone suggesting action (in this case, you), to PROVE that the action is good.

So, prove it, Hunterrose. Don't ask me to prove it is bad. You must first prove it is good.

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Evolution conflicts with a child's first hand knowledge in a number of ways. Therefore telling a child about evolution puts a fracture between the child and reality and encourages harmful trust in authority???

The story of Santa says something specific and can thus be proven false - an important respect (which they are not identical in) that you forgot to mention.

Santa's giving gifts to children for being good creates the incorrect basis of how happiness is achieved. So should I give gifts to children for being good?

I don't think evolution is generally taught to 3 year olds because they lack the prerequisite knowledge. I certainly wouldn't recommend it. But, aside from that, what parts of evolution do you have in mind that would be contradictory to a child's senses?

Well, he is essentially an arbitrary claim. Without reference to his arbitrary nature, I don't think that you could really prove he doesn't exist. At best you could disprove peripherels, such as the lack of a house at the north pole. But the realization that the arbitrary requires no proof, requires a bit more philosophy then most toddlers possess. He is certainly more tangible then god since he is presented as possessing a current physical form. The similiarities that I had in mind, which I thought were important, were those which prime the child's mind for belief without evidence.

I think exceptions should be made for birthdays and the like, but as a general rule, I don't think it wise for parents to buy children whatever they want. Neccessities and educational requirements, yes, but not toys everytime they walk through a store. The poor results of that behaviour by parents is, I believe, fairly obvious.

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I didn't say that.

The burden is on anyone suggesting action (in this case, you), to PROVE that the action is good.

And while I've said it's not harmful, I never said or suggested that anyone tell children that Santa is real.

Nonetheless, I'll bite, but I don't know (beyond not being harmful) how to prove that a fun action is beneficial. So how does one prove (i.e. what is the standard) that some form of fun is beneficial?

I certainly wouldn't recommend [telling children about evolution].
But that wasn't my question. Does telling a child about evolution put a fracture between the child and reality? and encourage harmful trust in authority?

What parts of evolution do you have in mind that would be contradictory to a child's senses?
Humans are derived from a nonhuman unicellular organism that is much, much smaller than a keyhole.

The similiarities that I had in mind [between Santa and dieties] were those which prime the child's mind for belief without evidence.
Which of the similarities prime the child's mind for belief without proof, if not the disprovable peripherals?

I think exceptions should be made for birthdays and the like, but as a general rule, I don't think it wise for parents to buy children whatever they want.
But that wasn't my question. Santa gives gifts once a year, and this once-a-year action creates an incorrect basis of how happiness is achieved. So should I give gifts to children once a year?

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And while I've said it's not harmful, I never said or suggested that anyone tell children that Santa is real.

Nonetheless, I'll bite, but I don't know (beyond not being harmful) how to prove that a fun action is beneficial. So how does one prove (i.e. what is the standard) that some form of fun is beneficial?

I'm not asking you to prove that fun is befeficial; I'm asking you to prove that believing Santa is real is more fun than make-believing in the way that children do for things like Superman.

I submit that the fun is in the presents, stories, decorations, celebration, etc, and not in the belief that Santa is real. I know this might seem odd on its face, but think about it. Really think: was it fun to think Santa was real? Apart from all of the aforementioned?

Tricky, I know. Because it's hard to separate them in one's mind. But color me skeptical.

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