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As we wish it to be

November 26th, 2014

Here is a link to an article that addresses our propensity to see things as we wish them to be.

“What we’ve got is this contest of moral visions that has become a factual fight because of this tendency of people to change their factual beliefs to fit their moral inclinations….

If the findings seem pessimistic, predicting that facts are often dictated by belief and reason clouded in self-serving ways, they also suggest ways of mitigating solution aversion…. Problems might be framed with aversion in mind…. Of course, if people feel they’re being manipulated, that could backfire; a more durable strategy, if also a more difficult one, involves making open-mindedness a personal and social virtue.

‘What you see in politics now is this massive lack of self-awareness.’”

The heart of the article is: because of the worldview I have developed through both nature and nurture, what seems perfectly obviously real to you seems perfectly ridiculous to me. Rather than to entertain the possibility that your view is valid within a worldview obtained along different lines than me, I dismiss you as out of your mind.

On the last day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 Benjamin Franklin offered support for the Constitution in spite of serious reservations as follows:

[H]aving lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error….

On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.

Why can we not lead like this today? Can we not doubt a little of our own infallibility?


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