Author Topic: "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."  (Read 579 times)

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Offline bosk1

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"What we have here is a failure to communicate..."
« on: June 12, 2020, 10:34:02 AM »
This is not meant to address any specific topic, but I saw this quote today, and found it to be pretty thought provoking:

"The reason so many people misunderstand so many issues is not that these issues are so complex, but that people do not want a factual or analytical explanation that leaves them emotionally unsatisfied. . . .  They want villains to hate and heroes to cheer--and they don't want explanations that fail to give them that."
-Thomas Sowell

I dunno.  I just thought this was poignant.  I don't present this as an absolute truth.  It isn't.  We can pick it apart and find flaws, contradictions, and exceptions.  But I do find it to be a general truism--meaning that, as it relates to the general human experience, it is quite often an accurate observation. 

I can look at a variety of issues through the ages, including most that are currently the hottest topics in P/R (and on the news), and I see both "sides" doing this frequently.  It goes without saying, for myself, "guilty as charged."  But I can also say that I try to be aware of this, and to actively avoid it.  It is just another type of bias.  Biases exist.  We all have them, and that's just a fact of life.  Those biases are, IMO, usually only a problem when we are either unaware of them, or we allow them to unduly influence us making up our minds about something without doing the critical analysis.  Anyhow, just thought this was fertile ground for discussion, so feel free to discuss if you like.
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Offline Stadler

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Re: "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2020, 10:59:23 AM »
I'm all on board with that idea.   It speaks to the emotional nature of so many of the reactions and proposed solutions for the bigger problems of our day. 

Just look at the vernacular that is used so often; we don't converse with our fellow humans, we "destroy", "eviscerate", "own", "annihilate", and "blow up" those that disagree with us. 

Offline Adami

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Re: "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2020, 11:06:21 AM »
Ehhhhh. There is 100% a decent amount of truth to that.

But there's also a lot of problems with it as a blanket statement or even a generalization.

Part of it can also very easily become just a way to dismiss people who don't agree with us. "Oh, you don't understand the TRUTH..you just want a hero and villain etc."

I'm all on board with that idea.   It speaks to the emotional nature of so many of the reactions and proposed solutions for the bigger problems of our day. 

Just look at the vernacular that is used so often; we don't converse with our fellow humans, we "destroy", "eviscerate", "own", "annihilate", and "blow up" those that disagree with us. 

While true, at least from my perspective, you're rather emotional in many of your responses/rationales. They just look very different.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2020, 11:28:20 AM »
Part of it can also very easily become just a way to dismiss people who don't agree with us. "Oh, you don't understand the TRUTH..you just want a hero and villain etc."

Well, I think you only say that because YOU don't understand the TRUTH, and you just want a hero and villain, etc.

But, no, in all seriousness, that's good point.  And it isn't meant to be dismissive.  That's just another form of the very thing Sowell is trying to point out and get us to see.
"The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie."

Offline Adami

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Re: "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2020, 11:32:09 AM »
Part of it can also very easily become just a way to dismiss people who don't agree with us. "Oh, you don't understand the TRUTH..you just want a hero and villain etc."

Well, I think you only say that because YOU don't understand the TRUTH, and you just want a hero and villain, etc.

But, no, in all seriousness, that's good point.  And it isn't meant to be dismissive.  That's just another form of the very thing Sowell is trying to point out and get us to see.

Yea. I didn't think you were intending it that way. Just that we, as humans, are extremely susceptible to anything that makes our perspective superior somehow to another. And rationalizing the other persons is a very easy way to do that, even if it's sometimes accurate.
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Offline Stadler

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Re: "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2020, 12:32:08 PM »
Ehhhhh. There is 100% a decent amount of truth to that.

But there's also a lot of problems with it as a blanket statement or even a generalization.

Part of it can also very easily become just a way to dismiss people who don't agree with us. "Oh, you don't understand the TRUTH..you just want a hero and villain etc."

I'm all on board with that idea.   It speaks to the emotional nature of so many of the reactions and proposed solutions for the bigger problems of our day. 

Just look at the vernacular that is used so often; we don't converse with our fellow humans, we "destroy", "eviscerate", "own", "annihilate", and "blow up" those that disagree with us. 

While true, at least from my perspective, you're rather emotional in many of your responses/rationales. They just look very different.

Maybe; emotion itself isn't bad.  The difference though is that there's a point when "a factual argument made with emotion" diverges from "an argument based wholly on emotion".   I probably do engage in the former.  I have little or no use for the latter.   There's no use for words like "destroy", "eviscerate", etc. in the former; they are an integral part of the latter.   Look at my response to XJ Denton in the police brutality thread.  I have emotion when it comes to that argument (my brother is a cop).  But I'm resorting to numbers, not blanket, combative language like describing George Floyd's death as part of "the systematic genocide of colored people" (his words, since I understand some are touchy as to how African Americans should be referred), as Ben Crumb did.

Offline Implode

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Re: "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2020, 08:34:50 AM »
Bosk, you're completely right. Things aren't too complicated for people to understand, they are just more complicated than people want them to be. Adami is also right. These are all different flavors of the same problem imo.

And to add another flavor, I think that people want there to be clear villains/heroes so that that can put themselves 100% on the right side. If situations and people are made to be "too complex," then they may find heroic trains in their villains, villainous traits in their heroes, or worst or all, villainous traits in themselves. And some people, unconsciously or not, just don't want to put in the effort to unpack that.

Offline RuRoRul

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Re: "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2020, 10:50:25 AM »
I can look at a variety of issues through the ages, including most that are currently the hottest topics in P/R (and on the news), and I see both "sides" doing this frequently.  It goes without saying, for myself, "guilty as charged."  But I can also say that I try to be aware of this, and to actively avoid it.  It is just another type of bias.  Biases exist.  We all have them, and that's just a fact of life.  Those biases are, IMO, usually only a problem when we are either unaware of them, or we allow them to unduly influence us making up our minds about something without doing the critical analysis. 
This has pretty much hit the nail on the head already. Reading the quote you posted, all I could think was that you could probably get almost everyone to agree with it, and that's because they'd be nodding along, agreeing, and thinking "Yep... that's exactly what everyone on the other side of the issue from me does!" 

While obviously we're going to think our own views are better thought out than a lot of other people's because... well... we're the ones who thought them out, it's important to remember that almost everyone else feels that same way. And others are going to think that we've been influenced by the same flawed reasoning or emotional biases that we might think they are susceptible to. And, worst of all, sometimes they might be right to think that.

As for what we can really do about it, I don't know, but I think acknowledging our own potential biases is a good step. If I'm going to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with me strongly on an issue, and part of my argument is that they are missing some aspect of it or are swayed to some conclusion because of their existing viewpoints or biases, how can I really expect them to accept or take my argument seriously if I refuse to acknowledge the possibility that I could be affected in the same way?

I think it doesn't help that "biased" is treated as a dirty word, something that's only true for bad or stupid people and so if you want to be decent and enlightened then you should not have any biases, or be susceptible to the same pitfalls as other mere mortals. I would trust someone with awareness of cognitive biases who accepts that it can apply even to them, and understands their own views and preferences and how that might affect the way they see some arguments, over someone who genuinely believes themselves to be an unbiased identifier of truth uninfulenced by their own experiences or preferences.