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Old 2010-08-30, 22:37   Link #61
james0246
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
It remains related. Because there is the assumption that "hill-billies" — being presumably less educated and therefore less "intelligent" and more heavily reliant on values-based decision-making — are not worthy of participating in "intellectual" debate.

This is also related to the issues that Sackett raised earlier. The very fact that we characterise "hill-billies" as "ignorant" is already ad hominem — we are discrediting them based on who they are and not necessarily on what they say or believe.
That's a little weird. The Appalachian folk were described as hillbillies specifically because they were socially and intellectually "different" from those that live in the cities or even the rural farm communities (this is not a value judgment, the people originally described as hillbillies were, due to the isolation of their homes, socially different from those that lived in farms of cities, and because of their isolation they lacked the more current information and technology). And, Ignorance, as so long as it is not willful, is simply a state of being uninformed (it is not necessarily a derogatory term, though it is often used as such). Consequently, "Ignorant Hillbillies (the people who live in the hills and lack proper education and communication compared to the more modernized society are ignorant (because of the lack of proper education or communication))" is a technically true statement (well, it was 50 years ago, but now with highways both real and data-based (), the term could be described as meaningless and potentially derogatory).

Still, it's interesting that you responded to the joke statement, didn't care about those poor "elitist snobs", and even removed the smilie....

Last edited by james0246; 2010-08-30 at 22:48.
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Old 2010-08-30, 22:46   Link #62
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Oh really? There is nothing at all intellectual about trying to decide what measures the value of life? Somehow, that makes me doubt the value of intellectualism you so admire.
Perhaps Irenicus is prudent in asking us to define intellectualism as we see it. I thought intellectualism refers to the ability to define the objective through facts. And when did I say I admired intellectualism? Misinterpreting me is understandable, but I never said anything of the sort, so I don't know where that is coming from.

By my definition of intellectualism, I do not think it is related to measuring human life. I do not think of my 7-year-old brother as intellectual in the slightest sense, but he has an inherent understanding of how human life is valuable. He cannot wade through facts to back up his position - he just knows it to be true. Facts can only bring us so far - we are extremely complex and emotion is inseparable from the human experience. I think an understanding that humans have rights, is a 'human universal,' it is part of who we are as a species to care about our fellow man. That human universal can be bent and molded in different ways by culture, but I think every culture in the world has some understanding, inherently, of human rights.

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This is a problem, a consequence of too much reliance on reductionist modes of thought. The idea that for every effect there must be a cause, and that if we can identify the cause, we can then manipulate it to create a desired outcome.

As it so happens, in reality, we run into ethical and moral dilemmas all the time, and reductionist logic alone will not help us resolve those quandaries. Given a choice between two awful outcomes, it comes down to our own moral values to decide which is the lesser evil. The quantity of facts alone will not sway the decision — there is also a matter of how much "value" we ascribe to each individual fact.
You must be misinterpreting me somewhere because this is more or less my position as well. Like I said in my earlier post, we can't just gather up a bunch of facts to 'prove' to someone that the death penalty is justified or unjustified.

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Good luck trying to find debates outside the fields of science and mathematics — cold, hard, emotionless subjects — that are based entirely on "objective" intellect.
What are you trying to say here? I think subjective discussion regarding things like human rights is valuable, even if we can never reach a verifiable truth. I merely wished to point out that these 'cold, hard, emotionless subjects' are discussed differently from subjective areas such as philosophy, sociology, and even, in some cases, history.

Last edited by ChainLegacy; 2010-08-30 at 23:01.
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Old 2010-08-30, 23:08   Link #63
TinyRedLeaf
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Originally Posted by ChainLegacy View Post
There is the subjective and then there is the factual. Culture and personal history can help to understand why someone thinks a certain way, but if the matter at hand is objective in nature sticking to the facts is preferable.

I wouldn't really consider a 'debate' about something like human rights to be the same as an 'intellectual debate,' so to speak.
Those are the two statements that prompted my response, coming immediately after I've already clarified that "I'm not arguing for appeals to emotions in a debate".

The debate on human rights is merely an example I used to show that it is not always possible to separate the subjective from the "factual" (that is, the "objective"). It is folly to think that reason alone will provide definitive answers to all our moral dilemmas. That said, I wasn't equating "intellectualism" to the "measuring of human life".

Rather, I was alluding to what Sackett had pointed out:
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Originally Posted by Sackett View Post
I am an intellectual myself, but I have come to learn that intellect is not the only path to finding truth. So when someone presents to me an argument that is not intellectually based but instead based on instinct or emotion, instead of dismissing it as illegitimate, I ask myself to consider why the person is taking that position, and to think about how to express it in intellectual terms.

Often then I express it back to them, at which point they will either say that I got it right, or that I'm off base. Once I understand their position in intellectual terms, then I can express agreement or disagreement- but even if I disagree the other person is usually pleased that I have understood them and recognized their position as legitimate.
All this relates to the topic at hand, because there is a strand of intellectual snobbery that dismisses emotion- or instinct-based arguments outright, regarding them as unworthy for further discussion. This is where "anti-intellectual" feelings come from, the perception of many that so-called intellectuals are too caught up in their ivory towers to listen to the opinions of people "beneath" them.

Such feelings are real, and sometimes dangerous. The massive reactionary backlash witnessed during China's Cultural Revolution, for example, stems in part from a perception among peasants that "intellectuals" were betraying the people's revolution. A similar tragedy occurred under Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia, leading to the killing fields. True, both events were inflamed by propaganda but, even so, the message would not have been as effective if resentment had not already existed among the working classes towards the supposedly "superior" and "uncaring" intelligentsia.

To me, therefore, it is important for "intellectuals" to keep as open a mind as possible, to listen to all arguments before deciding which are valid and which are not. It is also a responsibility of the intelligentsia, I feel, to help those who are less able, to help phrase their arguments more clearly. A humanistic inclusiveness, I suppose, as described by Irenicus, rather than an intellectual exclusiveness that serves only to divide societies.
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Old 2010-08-30, 23:43   Link #64
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Those are the two statements that prompted my response, coming immediately after I've already clarified that "I'm not arguing for appeals to emotions in a debate".
Again, I am suggesting there are different kinds of discussions. There are some areas where you cannot 'prove' yourself to be right, no matter what. Then, there are others, where objective facts can definitively verify one's claims. I know you aren't arguing for appeals to emotion - that is irrelevant to the point I was trying (apparently failing) to make.

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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
The debate on human rights is merely an example I used to show that it is not always possible to separate the subjective from the "factual" (that is, the "objective"). It is folly to think that reason alone will provide definitive answers to all our moral dilemmas. That said, I wasn't equating "intellectualism" to the "measuring of human life".
I think of the subjective and objective as related, but distinct. The objective is 'true' reality. The subjective is our interpretation of this reality. Morality is inherently subjective, and no objective facts I can provide will somehow justify my moral positions.


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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
All this relates to the topic at hand, because there is a strand of intellectual snobbery that dismisses emotion- or instinct-based arguments outright, regarding them as unworthy for further discussion. This is where "anti-intellectual" feelings come from, the perception of many that so-called intellectuals are too caught up in their ivory towers to listen to the opinions of people "beneath" them.
Though going by my definition, those people aren't intellectuals. One cannot simply dismiss a conclusion based on the modes of argument, rather they must point out why the conclusion itself is faulty. There's nothing intellectual about being closed off to new ideas. That's pretty stupid, actually.
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Old 2010-08-30, 23:55   Link #65
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I think of the subjective and objective as related, but distinct. The objective is 'true' reality. The subjective is our interpretation of this reality. Morality is inherently subjective, and no objective facts I can provide will somehow justify my moral positions.
This is where things get interesting. I don't fully agree with your definition of "truth". If you can find it, I recommend The Geography of Thought by Richard Nisbett, who offers compelling evidence to show that different people from different cultures, in this case Asians versus Westerners, have very different conceptions of "truth".

Your definition of "true" reality is very distinctively Western, inherited from a very long line of thought born in Ancient Greece, which valued individuality and the idea that "truth" exists independently of its environment.

Asian cultures, particularly Confucian cultures, approach "truth" in a more subtle, contextual manner. This is readily apparent in the baffling aphorisms of the culture, which often appear contradictory on the surface but, on deeper reflection, is actually "true", though not on an objective level.

So, again, I challenge you to broaden your conception of "truth". To me, it is both as subjective as it is objective. It is not always "distinct", as you claim.
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Old 2010-08-31, 00:04   Link #66
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Well, that does sound like an interesting read. I am actually studying quite a bit of east Asian history and philosophy in university this year, so perhaps I will come to understand what you mean better in a few months' time. I have no qualms with broadening my definitions, though right now I suppose I don't have the 'intellectual software' to understand what you mean when you refer to contextual, Confucian-influenced understanding of 'truth'.
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Old 2010-08-31, 00:20   Link #67
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Well, that does sound like an interesting read. I am actually studying quite a bit of east Asian history and philosophy in university this year, so perhaps I will come to understand what you mean better in a few months' time. I have no qualms with broadening my definitions, though right now I suppose I don't have the 'intellectual software' to understand what you mean when you refer to contextual, Confucian-influenced understanding of 'truth'.
Essentially, it boils down to a choice between the "scientific method" and the "dialectic method". Generally speaking, East Asian cultures tend to be more comfortable with dualism or paradoxes than Western cultures are. Of course, there are grave dangers in oversimplifying cultures, which Nisbett himself acknowledges.

However, you could also say that it's impossible to generalise when talking about "cultures", even though they are legitimate subjects for sociological research. The point of the book, in my opinion, is not to list all the differences, but rather to raise greater awareness of this phenomenon — the idea that our environments affect the way we think, and that the "truth" we seek is not necessarily as independent of its environment as we perceive.

This is an idea that Jared Diamond also touched upon, to some extent, in his groundbreaking Guns, Germs, and Steel, starting with his question as to why Africans haven't developed as many advanced civilisations as people did in other parts of the world.
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Old 2010-08-31, 02:50   Link #68
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
That is a slight misunderstanding of what I am driving at. I'm not arguing for appeals to emotions in a debate. Rather, I wanted to show that we constantly try in our daily lives to balance many different kinds of ethical systems, some of which are based on subjective "values".

Think for example of "human rights". We all intuitively believe that such "rights" exist, even though we have trouble agreeing on what these rights entail. That's because such "rights" are based on what we believe to be essential to human dignity, which is again another concept rooted in aesthetic judgment — what is dignity and how should we preserve it?

In such debates, it is impossible to separate emotions from intellect. Both faculties need to be engaged in order to come to a satisfactory answer. Trying to force down a purely "intellectual" point of view will not help people with very different value systems — and thus very different perspectives on "human rights" — to accept the argument.

And that is the disconnect which saddens me.
I don't think I quite misunderstood as much as you think. That was why in my example about slavery, I talked about how people's perceptions of "right" changed in a society, and so did the logical arguments behind it. Separating as much emotion as possible from this equation I think leads to a better solution in the end.

And this explains why I view incorporating too much emotion in any debate is dangerous, though I do admit there is a place for it, otherwise there would not be a debate on it really in the first place.

Much like anything in this world, the ideal solution ends up not being ideal because of human nature. We would like to use intellectual reasoning to determine the best course of action for many things, but like you said, different society's approaches in morality often skew it.

I think one thing that should be accepted in any debate is what is considered universal or almost universal to all groups involved. If we are able to establish common ground, and work under this assumption, then intellectual debate is able to flourish without a need to worry about pesky details as you have outlined.

Take the ground mosque example. Everyone can most likely agree on these points.
  1. Many Americans are sensitive to the attacks about 9/11.
  2. The cultural center has not been shy about provoking the public.
  3. Many Muslim Americans died on 9/11.
  4. There are tons of mosques already in the city, as well as mosques in ground zero.
  5. The so-called mosque is actually a cultural center that aims to educate many Americans are on the true muslim religion (Not the extremism presented to us in the war on terror)
  6. The mosque is actually not even located in ground-zero.
  7. Many 9/11 afflicted families have have not voiced disagreement with the building of the cultural center.

If people focus on these points, then you can have a good intellectual debate, instead of worrying about facts and emotions that are either not backed up or shared by everyone.
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Old 2010-08-31, 07:16   Link #69
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...I view incorporating too much emotion in any debate is dangerous, though I do admit there is a place for it, otherwise there would not be a debate on it really in the first place.

Much like anything in this world, the ideal solution ends up not being ideal because of human nature. We would like to use intellectual reasoning to determine the best course of action for many things, but like you said, different society's approaches in morality often skew it.
Again, I'm not advocating debate based on emotions alone. Rather, I'm urging "intellectuals" not to write off arguments simply because they appear "irrational". Because, as pointed out earlier, so-called "irrational" arguments may have rational foundations; it's just that they haven't been clearly expressed.

Also, to the extent that discussions on art and the humanities are also part of "intellectual" debate, there will always be times when we are asked to evaluate our feelings for one position over another. The "subjective" truths derived from such discussions are, to me, no less important than the universal truths we attempt to seek from more "objective" debate. On this point, I believe we are both agreed.

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I think one thing that should be accepted in any debate is what is considered universal or almost universal to all groups involved. If we are able to establish common ground, and work under this assumption, then intellectual debate is able to flourish without a need to worry about pesky details as you have outlined.
The problem is that "universality" is itself an illusion, possibly an artefact of human will. To use Kant's definition of categorical imperatives: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." The key idea here is that we have no way of knowing for sure what is absolutely universal, but by acting on a rule that can be applied universally, we will such a rule into existence. It's a somewhat messy idea that Schopenhauer later clarified by presenting the world simply as will and representation.

Ultimately, both philosophers accepted that we can't know the universal rule, but we can nevertheless act as though there was one. In the meantime, though, we will have to wade through a universe of subjective interpretations to get to such "universal" rules.
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Old 2010-08-31, 11:07   Link #70
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
The "subjective" truths derived from such discussions are, to me, no less important than the universal truths we attempt to seek from more "objective" debate. On this point, I believe we are both agreed.
Intellectualism applies to facts, the truth. And yes, the truth can be known. More particularly, it's known as "objective reality." It's something that exists, regardless of how someone subjectively feels about it.

There is a wall in front of you, and if you walk forward, you will run into it. That's an objective truth which cannot be denied.

To approach this intellectually, let's get a definition. From Dictionary.com:

1. devotion to intellectual pursuits.
2. the exercise of the intellect.
3. excessive emphasis on abstract or intellectual matters, esp. with a lack of proper consideration for emotions.
4. Philosophy.
a. the doctrine that knowledge is wholly or chiefly derived from pure reason.
b. the belief that reason is the final principle of reality.

The bolded part is my own addition. Thus, emotion cannot be included, and that means "subjective" is out. As Ricky mentioned before, that would come into play if we were discussing wisdom. I would argue that wisdom is just as needed, but the scope of this thread is limited to intellectualism only.

That means, rational, logical thought is the only consideration. And thus by extension, we can only talk about what is verifiable objective reality, aka, truth. It assumes that there is a truth, even if we can't see it at the time.

The last definition there with philosophy, I find interesting, and is what I base my life on. To really be an intellectual, you have to believe that knowledge can be derived from reason, which is the final arbiter of truth. It cannot be argued. A wall is a wall, and you can't call it a monkey. It is the objective truth, and you can sit there and try to deny it all you want, but when I throw this baseball at you, it's going to cause damage when it hits, no matter how much you might want to believe otherwise.

Of course, by going this route and abdicating the authority of emotion, I tend to skimp a bit on wisdom. So that's my weakness. And it's a weakness because nearly all humans are emotional to some degree; if humans weren't, then intellectualism would be superior. I rarely take emotions into account when I make statements, or consider things (and thus people can accuse me of being insensitive or such).

That's what it means to be a pure intellectual. And as you can see, it's not a wholly "correct" stance to take, but I feel the world needs all types. And especially could use more intellectuals, heh.
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Old 2010-08-31, 12:26   Link #71
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To me, therefore, it is important for "intellectuals" to keep as open a mind as possible, to listen to all arguments before deciding which are valid and which are not.
Even so, "By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out." - Richard Dawkins.

Way I see it, intellectualism is about taking all sorts of ideas, and putting them through the sieve of rationality and logic. Yes, I agree on the "listening to all arguments before judging them" part, but once you actually have to get around to the judging part, it should be done properly. Let's not pretend there's any space for irrational ideas borne of wayward emotions where there isn't, shall we?

I'd go on further, but I have a girlfriend awaiting my arms (yes I know, TMI ), and I have work tmr. So it'll be a while until I can come back to this, I think.
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Old 2010-08-31, 12:27   Link #72
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Again, could everyone please slow down and define what do you mean by intellectual in this thread?

For example.




Kaijo employs a very strict definition of intellectualism here to limit it, presumably, to the field of logic and the objective natural sciences -- note that these are actually different fields of understanding -- at most. Not unlike Reckoner's position when he criticized the posts before his arguing for humility to be a trait of a "true" intellectual. To them the pursuit of knowledge and adherence to logical principles are sufficient criterias for an intellectual.



While TRL seems to be arguing for a more inclusive definition of intellectualism to include the subjective humanities, more in line with the sentiment behind the argument for humility and wisdom that has been expressed by others in this thread. A "human" element, if I may, to the idea of intellectualism.


So which one are we going with, and why?
That's something that even the most recent posts can't seem to agree with. Myself having been raised from an asian and buddhist background (especially the Middle Way as a principle), and having sided more with Rousseau's school of thought than the rationalists, I have to go with Tiny Red Leaf's definition. I don't see objectivity and rationality as the end all be all quality that qualifies an intellectual. What's intellectualism to me? Seeking knowledge and understanding without excluding the social and human dimensions that can surround the object of study.

And of course, in certain fields it is easier to discard the whole human and social deal all together (mathematics, physics, etc...) while other fields just can NOT ignore the human and social dimension of a topic or subject of study (in human sciences like sociology ethnology and... arts).


Do I classify myself as an intellectual? I'd rather not, I'll just say that I have a little more trivial (or not) knowledge than the average Joe in certain fields.
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Old 2010-08-31, 12:38   Link #73
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Originally Posted by Kaijo View Post
Intellectualism applies to facts, the truth. And yes, the truth can be known. More particularly, it's known as "objective reality." It's something that exists, regardless of how someone subjectively feels about it.

There is a wall in front of you, and if you walk forward, you will run into it. That's an objective truth which cannot be denied.
Arguments that involve the "truth" and "objective reality" cannot be taken too serious, since every human is by nature subjective in perception and processing of information. You can define something true within a scope of observable reality (a framework/environment). However, such truth is not necessarily universal.
Your example doesn't really show such dependencies, since it is a rather simple in environment observation. Usually debates are not about things that trivial.
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Old 2010-08-31, 15:13   Link #74
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Arguments that involve the "truth" and "objective reality" cannot be taken too serious, since every human is by nature subjective in perception and processing of information. You can define something true within a scope of observable reality (a framework/environment). However, such truth is not necessarily universal.
Your example doesn't really show such dependencies, since it is a rather simple in environment observation. Usually debates are not about things that trivial.
Heh, you think so? Remember the hullabaloo about Obama's birth certificate awhile ago?

Point is that, yes, there is some room for subjective analysis, such as the best way to provide health care. But from an objective intellectual standpoint, you can look around the world at what works, and what doesn't, and make a determination. "This way seems to work better than this way. Of course, anything is possible and can be made to work."

In that sense, intellectualism and objective reality lay the foundation. At worst, they just suggest a course of action with the best chance of success.

Yes, it's not going to do anything for a "which cheesecake topping is the best?" type of debate. But there are number of debates that be addressed with the factual truth of objective reality.
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Old 2010-09-01, 01:46   Link #75
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Heh, you think so? Remember the hullabaloo about Obama's birth certificate awhile ago?
Would you say, that this is the 80% case - I mean - is such a debate really the common case. I am not saying it doesn't exist. But sometimes we overestimate the negative things a little bit, it feels stronger than it actually is.
Think for example about your contributions in the Dating thread. How factual is the discussion there and how much objective reality do you contribute. In a real life scenario people often rely on their subjective feelings in debates (for example if the matter is too complex to realy predict the outcome of a certain proposal, especially if it involves other humans - like in politic debates for example).
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Old 2010-09-01, 05:27   Link #76
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Would you say, that this is the 80% case - I mean - is such a debate really the common case. I am not saying it doesn't exist. But sometimes we overestimate the negative things a little bit, it feels stronger than it actually is.
I think this is due to idealism vs pragmatism. Overestimating negative outcomes can be both good and bad, good as in it helps us prepare for the worst should it happen, and bad is for personal morale and disregard for subsequent expectations after the event.

There isn't a right or wrong way to view things, it is often a personal perception that is highly subjective. There is no such thing as a 100% chance of occurence, simple statistics already prove that as long as there is another event, the occurence is just a possibility.

Anything said is open to interpretation unless specific details are given. A insinuation about washing a showerhead or eating taiyaki from the gill cover can be interpreted very differently and radically, and influence by the speaker in the past (if applicable) can drastically change our perceptions towards their words.
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Old 2010-09-01, 11:19   Link #77
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Would you say, that this is the 80% case - I mean - is such a debate really the common case. I am not saying it doesn't exist. But sometimes we overestimate the negative things a little bit, it feels stronger than it actually is.
Think for example about your contributions in the Dating thread. How factual is the discussion there and how much objective reality do you contribute. In a real life scenario people often rely on their subjective feelings in debates (for example if the matter is too complex to realy predict the outcome of a certain proposal, especially if it involves other humans - like in politic debates for example).
My words in the dating thread are more from a "statistically speaking, these things are most likely, and these things are less likely" which is factual intellectualism. It doesn't mean 100% that it's true all the time; indeed, there are many exceptions to the rule. And I try to phrase things in what I do and why, so people can decide if that's what they would like to do. Or in listing the options that are open, and the general best ways of getting there. Then leave it up to the person to decide what they'd like to do, and how they want to try getting there.

Dating is definitely a topic that has a lot of subjective in it, but there are some "best practices" that will result in greater success.

Anyway, my point was that a lot can be objectified and the truth uncovered, not that everything could be. Obviously, this is a case-by-case basis, so we'd have to deal with each debate topic as it came up.

To take politics, there are number of different ways we can legislate things. And we have a number of objective real world data points in the form of what other countries have done, both in the past, and currently. From that, we can list what has been shown to work best.
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Old 2010-09-01, 13:09   Link #78
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To take politics, there are number of different ways we can legislate things. And we have a number of objective real world data points in the form of what other countries have done, both in the past, and currently. From that, we can list what has been shown to work best.
Okay, but objectively speaking you have to look at the whole thing, not just an aspect of another country/nation... the previous history, the mindset of the people there... and similar things. However, when you try to consider every tiny bit of information (which can be important - ref chaos theory) for a specific topic you will end up deciding over a very complex matter, and most people tend to do this subjectively (otherwise things like i.e. lobbyism wouldn't work so efficiently - you make people weighting certain aspects of a matter stronger/weaker than others, and thus influence the conclusions those people draw from the matter).
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Old 2010-09-01, 13:26   Link #79
cusco
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Being driven by emotion isn't necessarily a bad thing because acting on things your passionate about makes life worth living, whether the outcomes are favorable or unfavorable. Of course you can't really say 'black and white' you want to live by emotion or intellect those are both extremes I feel which would lead you either to miss out on a lot, or get into deep shit.
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Old 2010-09-01, 13:29   Link #80
ChainLegacy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cusco View Post
Being driven by emotion isn't necessarily a bad thing because acting on things your passionate about makes life worth living, whether the outcomes are favorable or unfavorable. Of course you can't really say 'black and white' you want to live by emotion or intellect those are both extremes I feel which would lead you either to miss out on a lot, or get into deep shit.
Pretty much everyone is driven by emotion on some level, even when they are thinking 'factually.' I remember watching a feature on television about a man with brain damage that had impaired his ability to feel emotion (for instance he lost his love for his family, quite sad). The interesting thing was, he couldn't even complete some simple tasks that one would believe unrelated to emotion. I can't track down the clip on youtube, but I'll keep looking as it is quite interesting.

My point in saying this is, we can't ever really escape emotional decision making. There are mental 'tools' we can use, though, that alter our ways of thinking towards more rational decisions.
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