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Thread: "Why you should hold your beliefs at arm’s length"

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    "Why you should hold your beliefs at arm’s length"

    Why you should hold your beliefs at arm’s length

    The third reason that Carl is wrong to call himself a monarchist (and why I think people oughtn’t to call themselves liberals, conservatives, libertarians, environmentalists or whatever) is that human brains are very leaky contraptions, and one corollary of this is that initially descriptive ideas tend to drift in the direction of prescriptivity (hence, inter alia, the naturalistic fallacy). Let’s say you notice, as a fact about yourself, that you favor low taxes and a generally small government on ethical and practical grounds. You look in a dictionary and, lo and behold, that is a big part of the definition of “conservative.” Out come the phonemes: “I am a conservative.” Aren’t words great?

    What you will probably not notice, however, is that increasingly when you don’t know what you think about some issue yet (say, your country’s stance on foreign affairs), you will take your cue from other self-identified conservatives, as opposed to thinking it through yourself and then describing your conclusion in political terminology. The normative self-definition has staged its coup d’etat. Whatever “conservatives” think, that is going to be your opinion. Of course, when I put it that way, it looks ridiculous. But from the inside, this process feels perfectly rational — like wisely throwing your lot in with a really smart group of people.

    The hasty allegiances formed by the drift to normativity have a further drawback, in that they tend to make progress towards specific goals difficult. The political landscape is a skew coordinate system. In other words, you can never move along a single axis without simultaneously moving along others. Want to support the only party that is currently serious about climate change? Well, be my guest, as long as you don’t mind their economic protectionism. Want to combat protectionism by supporting the opposing party? By all means, as long as you’re all right with “family values.” And what, pray tell, does sexual bigotry have to do with free trade economics? Why exactly is that a package deal? Search me. Apparently it’s somehow distantly related to where two varieties of wig-wearing aristocrats sat during the French Revolution.**

    To be clear, I am not advocating disengagement from politics. Rather, I suggest we should take a piecemeal approach to political issues, avoiding an excessive focus on their historical relations with each other.
    I really, really like this essay, and I agree with it.

    It touches on some other topics as well, not only politics.

    What do you think? Do you agree with it, or not?

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    So, one should think for oneself, that is, try to be a freethinker. Yes? Or, at least in politics, an Independent? And how far will that get you in US politics if you're not a Trump at the same time? Oh, I know, there is the occasional Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt, but even they adopted Parties. Lincoln had a war to win.
    Last edited by 4321lynx; 02-09-2020 at 11:16 PM.

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tammuz View Post
    I really, really like this essay, and I agree with it.
    Me too. I liked the link to the short piece entitled 'We change our minds less often than we think'. That could be the tagline to the name of this forum, and I think we could all individually agree that things would go a lot smoother if everyone else would be willing to do it more often.

    For guidance on how to hold our beliefs at arm's length, I guess we could go back to Descartes and his systematic process of being skeptical about (or doubting) the truth of all our beliefs, and then forward to the scientific method, which is arguably the best tool we now have for holding our beliefs at arm's length, albeit it's neither perfect nor idiot-proof (see: climate change denial).
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-11-2020 at 12:25 AM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    There is should and then there is what is.

    Why should a republican, living in a deeply red state spend time and energy changing their views, only to be outcast by their family and friends? Spend more of their time and energy for an outcome that will likely be wholly negative for them.

    Do you see the problem? People would never be built to work that way.

    But I do think that if we're talking beliefs of the more benign category it is definitely helpful to hold them at arm's length, pretty much universally.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    I observe and accumulate things that can be held at arm's length. Certainly not beliefs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4321lynx View Post
    So, one should think for oneself, that is, try to be a freethinker. Yes? Or, at least in politics, an Independent? And how far will that get you in US politics if you're not a Trump at the same time? Oh, I know, there is the occasional Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt, but even they adopted Parties. Lincoln had a war to win.
    I don't think the essay argues that it is wrong to support one political party over another, but rather that one should judge each issue on its own merits, rather than following any fixed ideology or party-line. But once you do that, there is nothing wrong with voting for the party closest to your views.

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