Possibility of being wrong

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wvanfleet
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Possibility of being wrong

Post by wvanfleet »

[00027 We should always remain open to the possibility of being wrong, and always try to understand why someone who disagrees comes to such a conclusion.]

Jordan, we have different beliefs about this. How do you see it? Should it be re-worded?

Bill

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Re: Possibility of being wrong

Post by Jordan Thompson »

Bill, I would say that there are certain instances when we should not have in our minds the possibility that we are wrong in our decision. I think it is reasonable to postulate a situation where a split second decision needs to be made in order for a group in a tight situation to take action to get out of the tight situation. It also seems reasonable to say that considering the possibility that the decision I make (let's just assume I'm the person who has placed it upon himself to make a decision for the group, keeping in mind that a decision has to be made extremely quickly in order for us to have the possibility of escaping the tight situation) might be wrong may lead me to hesitate for some amount of time, which may then lead me to have not made the decision in time to help the group escape the tight situation. It may be that, in the end, I conclude that the decision I made led to more unnecessary PSDED rather than JCA. However, that was arguably impossible to know at the time the decision was made.
Secondly, let's consider a new scenario where I have to make a decision, the impact of which will likely not be very clear to me. For example, I might try to decide between donating a certain amount of money to a charity and saving that money to help support my family. Regardless of the decision I make, it is logically possible for my decision to have been the wrong one (assuming the standard of wrongness is to based on the HUEP). I think this scenario is truly applicable to every situation that the individual decides requires moral consideration. If I, the individual, am constantly considering the possibility that I am wrong, I am arguably perpetuating an unhealthy mindset. I would say that such a mindset is potentially unhealthy because I feel it is only natural to recognize responsibility in our actions. This means that we deserve to feel regret for actions we find to be wrong while also deserving to feel a sense of accomplishment with the actions we find to be right. However, if I'm constantly considering the possibility that I'm wrong, then I feel as though I'm doing a disservice to myself by removing at least some of the sense of accomplishment that I arguably deserved to have.
Let's say I finally finished writing a song. It took me weeks of conceptual and emotional struggle to give this song my seal of approval. It is true that I could have volunteered at a homeless shelter for the amount of time that it took me to write the song. This is arguably part of the process of considering that I was wrong in my decision to write the song. However, I just can't accept that that is a healthy way to take on life. It seems overly cautious to me. Does it not seem like we'd be missing out on at least some joy and some contentment, perhaps even some appreciation if we were to perpetually have it in our minds that we could be wrong? I suppose that's all I've got to say.

wvanfleet
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Re: Possibility of being wrong

Post by wvanfleet »

Great analysis, Jordan. I will try to address each of your points, which are good ones, leading, I think, to clearer understanding.

One general point that you are making is that "remaining open to the possibility of being wrong" leads to two possibly deleterious consequences:

(1) It will cause excessive worry, a detrimental mental state.

My answer would be that remaining open to the possibility of being wrong in no way implies that one should engage in excessive worry. It means only that if we see evidence that seems to indicate that we are making a mistake, we should not put that out of our minds by assuming that we are unable to make a mistake. It is always true with regard to any decision that in retrospect it may turn out to have been a mistake. It is the nature of our existence that there is no way to be able to predict all of the consequences of our decisions. It seems to me that you are making an assumption that I do not make, namely, that openness to the possibility of being wrong implies taking a highly judgmental approach to oneself, involving self-punishment for imperfection, rather than an understanding approach, involving recognition of imperfection as being an inevitable part of decision-making.

(2) It will lead to hesitation in decision-making, and thus a possible detrimental effect on that decision-making if speed is important.

My answer would be that hesitation in decision-making is not a necessary accompaniment to recognizing the possibility of being wrong. All one can ever do is decide based upon how things seem at the moment of decision-making. What ethical belief 00027 is addressing is the tendency that some have to actively reject the possibility of being wrong and the unwillingness to look at evidence to the contrary. We see political leaders at times make statements that imply a sense of self-importance based upon the idea that "if this is what I currently believe, then it has to be right, and anyone disagreeing with it must be ...." But most decision-making does have time constraints, and all we can do is do the best we can. And part of the decision-making process is deciding how much time to take and how much research to do before arriving at the decision and thus taking action. Some of the judgement has to do with the judgement as to the importance of the decision.

My orientation leads me to believe that 00027 is one of the most important ethical beliefs we can have. Closure of the mind to evidence that one is incorrect seems to me to be one of the most dangerous tendencies that we have. It leads to refusal to talk to and try to understand those who believe differently, and we see evidence all the time of the alternatives to that, our dividing up into groups of agreed-upon ideology, with agreement within the group that those who do not agree are inferior and/or bad, such that they can even be considered enemies, or at least unworthy of empathy. Belief 00027 is the ethical principle to help minimize this tendency. I believe that with a different model of child rearing, not based upon punishment of mistakes but rational analysis of them, will lead to a drastic reduction in the emotional pain involved in discovery of error.

There is one term that you use that I observe marked ambiguity and uncertainty about in my mind, and I think it would be useful to explore it more deeply. The term is "deserve." Can you clarify what its meaning is for you as you used it in your response.

Thanks so much for your response. It has helped me to think more deeply about certain things. My responses above are not made with absolute certainty. I could be misunderstanding something, and if so, I want to know. So please let me know your responses to mine.

Bill

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Re: Possibility of being wrong

Post by Jordan Thompson »

Perhaps we have different interpretations of the wording "be open to". As I've implied at a previous humanianity meeting, I think that pure open mindedness is pure skepticism, or pure doubtfulness. Of course it is probably impossible to be purely open minded because we have tendencies within ourselves that we will likely never recognize. However, I do believe that a certain degree of doubt for one's own perspective can be detrimental. As you point out, we are always in a position to make some decision. Furthermore, the decision that we end up making may end up being a decision that we later determine to have been a mistake. This does not imply to me that we should act as if our decisions might be mistakes while we're in the process of making those decisions. That is certainly a safe/cautious approach. However, I feel it is inhibiting to one's confidence. In my view, confidence is key to honing in on any emotion. I would argue that one has a greater capacity for empathy if one has confidence. One who is confident is more capable of dealing with sadness, joy, uncertainty, etc. If it is true that perpetually keeping in mind the possibility that I'm wrong would lead me to be less confident, then it would seem to follow that such perpetuity is in at least partial opposition to JCA.
You mention imperfection as something to be accepted/understanding of. I actually believe the concept of (moral) imperfection is misguided. One's morality is only imperfect relative to his or her moral foundation (in the humanian's case, this would be the HUEP). However, I feel as though you and I agree that this principle is not justified by anything past itself. Therefore, the belief that I am imperfect (which is very similar to the belief that I could be wrong right now) should at least be refined as the belief that I am imperfect relative to what the HUEP demands of me. This is only worth mentioning because I interpreted you to be saying that we should be understanding of the fact that we are objectively imperfect. That seems wasteful to believe in to me.
If, by belief 00027, you simply mean that, for example, one should listen to another's perspective, keeping in mind that it is valuable to gain more information and perhaps refine one's own perspective through such information, then I will change my vote to yes. I view that wording as substantively different from "remain open to the possibility of being wrong". Would you agree that there is a difference between the two statements, "there is always more room for me to grow" and "there is always the possibility that I am wrong"? It's clear to me that those have different implications. Hopefully you see my issues with the belief in question.
You also say, " It (to be open to the possibility of being wrong) means only that if we see evidence that seems to indicate that we are making a mistake, we should not put that out of our minds by assuming that we are unable to make a mistake". You provide a condition in this wording, the condition of seeing evidence that seems to indicate that we are making a mistake. However, the wording, "we should always be open to the possibility of being wrong" implies an unconditional demand. In short, what I've quoted from you does not appear to me to be in alignment with the belief in question. The wording you provided is something I would definitely vote yes to. Of course if we see evidence that seems to indicate that we're making a mistake we should become much more cautious/reflective of our decision making process in that instance! Would you say that your words in your previous replay are in alignment with Belief 00027?
By the way, I would say that for one to deserve something is for him or her to feel as though it is fair to, for lack of a better word, embrace that something. Perhaps I could be thematically relevant and say that to deserve something is to justly be open to it.

wvanfleet
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Re: Possibility of being wrong

Post by wvanfleet »

Jordan,

[Perhaps we have different interpretations of the wording "be open to".]

Yes, as I review your responses to it, that does indeed seem so.

[As I've implied at a previous humanianity meeting, I think that pure open mindedness is pure skepticism, or pure doubtfulness.]

Yes, I gather that “open-mindedness” is, for you, a state of worry and indecision or hesitancy. That is not at all what it means to me. I have high levels of confidence with regard to many of my beliefs, but I consider that I am very open-minded, because even with regard to such beliefs that I have high confidence in, if it looks like I can explore with an individual the reasons for our difference of belief, I would not refuse to do so on the basis of my confidence. There might indeed be reasons for not discussing it with the person, such as seeing the time/place as inappropriate, or such as seeing that the belief is important to the individual while at the same time having some evidence that the person had not acquired the ability/tendency to think more deeply, nor the desire to do so. In other words, I do not have an ethical rule of conduct that says I should challenge any beliefs that I do not share.

So by open-mindedness I mean only the willingness to engage in friendly debate with anyone who wishes to do so, assuming conditions are favorable for such friendly debate, and the recognition that my feeling of certainty is not in and of itself evidence that I am right in the presence of someone else feeling certain about an opposite belief.

[Of course it is probably impossible to be purely open minded because we have tendencies within ourselves that we will likely never recognize.]

One can have it as an ethical rule of conduct, which is a device that sounds an alarm when one is contemplating action that is contrary to the rule of conduct. It is a caution to think before one acts because the contemplated action is inconsistent with the rule. It does not mean that the contemplated act is wrong, only that, without considering anything else, the odds of making a mistake appear to be higher than normal.

[However, I do believe that a certain degree of doubt for one's own perspective can be detrimental.]

You are talking, I believe, about “fear of making a mistake.” Chronic fear is an unhealthy state, unless one is in a chronically dangerous situation, and even then it might be. In other words, if one is indeed in a dangerous situation that one can’t do anything about, and one has concluded that one can’t, it may indeed be best to maintain the belief that one is safe unless evidence to the contrary arises. I don’t fear driving, despite the fact that there is some degree of danger, but I do wear my seatbelt and I do obey rules of conduct having to do with maintenance of attention to driving and to conditions, etc.

[As you point out, we are always in a position to make some decision. Furthermore, the decision that we end up making may end up being a decision that we later determine to have been a mistake. This does not imply to me that we should act as if our decisions might be mistakes while we're in the process of making those decisions.]

I agree with you if you mean maintaining an internal belief that we are probably making a mistake. That’s something different.

[That is certainly a safe/cautious approach. However, I feel it is inhibiting to one's confidence.]

Yes. So I think the wording of the belief is leading to the illusion of difference of opinion.

[In my view, confidence is key to honing in on any emotion. I would argue that one has a greater capacity for empathy if one has confidence. One who is confident is more capable of dealing with sadness, joy, uncertainty, etc.]

What does “dealing with” mean? I think you are basically talking about how one feels inside, and whether one is always in a state of stress, which of course is unhealthy, though being careless is also.

[If it is true that perpetually keeping in mind the possibility that I'm wrong would lead me to be less confident, then it would seem to follow that such perpetuity is in at least partial opposition to JCA.]

Yes, you are referring to chronic, inappropriate worry. I can feel quite confident in what I am doing, and consequently quite free of worry and the effects of stress, while still acknowledging that it is quite possible for me to make a mistake. What belief 00027 is referring to is the “natural attitude” (in the anger prevention paradigm), namely, “I KNOW I’m right, so YOU are either lying, dumb, or crazy, or just plain bad.”


[You mention imperfection as something to be accepted/understanding of. I actually believe the concept of (moral) imperfection is misguided. One's morality is only imperfect relative to his or her moral foundation (in the humanian's case, this would be the HUEP). However, I feel as though you and I agree that this principle is not justified by anything past itself. Therefore, the belief that I am imperfect (which is very similar to the belief that I could be wrong right now) should at least be refined as the belief that I am imperfect relative to what the HUEP demands of me. This is only worth mentioning because I interpreted you to be saying that we should be understanding of the fact that we are objectively imperfect.]

I said nothing about “objectively” imperfect. In fact, that could not exist in my lexicon, or at least it would have to be clarified considerably.

[That seems wasteful to believe in to me.]

So again, I think that we do not actually disagree, but are victims of the ambiguity of language.


[If, by belief 00027, you simply mean that, for example, one should listen to another's perspective, keeping in mind that it is valuable to gain more information and perhaps refine one's own perspective through such information, then I will change my vote to yes. I view that wording as substantively different from "remain open to the possibility of being wrong". Would you agree that there is a difference between the two statements, "there is always more room for me to grow" and "there is always the possibility that I am wrong"? ]

And see for me it is hard to see any difference. Growth can certainly involve change of one’s opinion. I have no negative attitude toward changing of my opinion. But it is interesting how awareness of such change in one’s own opinion can be used as political ammunition against one, as if one should be born with, and die with, all the correct beliefs.

[It's clear to me that those have different implications. Hopefully you see my issues with the belief in question.]

Actually, I will hope that you question your interpretation of those implications. I am trying to question mine, but so far I have not been able to see the difference that you see. Perhaps I am mistaken, so I will continue to be open to evidence that I am, but so far, I still feel okay about the wording of the belief. So it would be interesting perhaps to do a survey and see whether I am just not getting something that seems evident to others. So far, the odds seem 50:50, since there are only two of us and we are seeing it differently.


[You also say, " It (to be open to the possibility of being wrong) means only that if we see evidence that seems to indicate that we are making a mistake, we should not put that out of our minds by assuming that we are unable to make a mistake". You provide a condition in this wording, the condition of seeing evidence that seems to indicate that we are making a mistake. However, the wording, "we should always be open to the possibility of being wrong" implies an unconditional demand.]

To me, the propositions seem the same. At least the second is what I meant when I wrote the first (I was the one suggesting the belief for the Belief Manual).

[In short, what I've quoted from you does not appear to me to be in alignment with the belief in question. The wording you provided is something I would definitely vote yes to. Of course if we see evidence that seems to indicate that we're making a mistake we should become much more cautious/reflective of our decision making process in that instance! Would you say that your words in your previous replay are in alignment with Belief 00027?]

Yes. But I may still be missing something. Upon review of my responses, if you still believe I am, please let me know and I will do some more thinking about it. In addition, if you do believe the belief is not worded optimally, please suggest an alternative. If the belief cannot be edited, we can add the improved version below the one that is there, so that people can consider switching to it. If everyone switches, and the belief is no longer agreed to by anyone, it disappears after a year, I think, and its belief number will be reassigned to a newly suggested belief. (This save space in the database.)

[By the way, I would say that for one to deserve something is for him or her to feel as though it is fair to, for lack of a better word, embrace that something. Perhaps I could be thematically relevant and say that to deserve something is to justly be open to it.]

I can report to you that I still do not experience the feeling of clarity of meaning. “Justly” is another ambiguous word, I think. But I am not seeing this issue as a complication to the above.

And thanks, Jordan, for the opportunity to do some in-depth thinking.

Bill

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