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Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Third Story

An elephant crashing through the jungle undergrowth with a dizzy rider hanging on by the finger nails.   Jonathan Haidt bases much of his argument in The Righteous Mind on an analogy depicting human reason as a small rider whose elephant is wildly out of control.  

So what is the elephant?  All the agenda-funnelled assumptions that motivate "forward."   Haidt identifies emotion, alliances, teams, gendered affiliations, coalitions, and maintaining a reputation as the elephant.   We now have opposing teams that no longer have members whose values overlap.  The tribal ridicule and rhetoric and moral division shoves out a space for moderates who once mulled each side over, fence sitters who crossed over into enemy territory and stumbled upon shared values

Maybe genuine discussion cannot happen because the elephant is deaf to certain appeals?   That seems to be Haidt's view.  Far from the lofty goal of truth seeking, most people seem content with reaffirming an alliance, repeating the party line, holding subjectively defended territory.  Do we accept any grounds as sufficient?   When I do see debate occur, I notice the willingness to credit any claim-- so long as any expert can be trotted out. Haidt lists six origins for moral impulse: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity.  

He identifies a short list of priorities or values of members who align as progressive-- care, fairness and liberty-- and a longer, more inclusive one for conservatives who cherish as well loyalty, authority and sanctity.   The elephant is seriously committed to certain impulses, charging over opposing values with reckless abandon.  Haidt acknowledges that progressives like himself typically are less interested in recognizing the claims of loyalty, authority, and sanctity. 
Sensing the elephant in the public "room," people now mostly avoid the effort required to carry on genuine dialogue, recognizing the difficulty of appealing to the elephant.  In his book, Difficult Conversations, Douglas Stone, et. al.  shows how assumptions frame information and determine how it gets interpreted.   We all know this, but the book gives  examples of conversations to show how conflict typically plays out and how we can reserve judgement, try to imagine the other person's reality, and prolong a nonblaming frame of reference while collecting information.  

A practical-minded approach, Stone's goes further than Haidt to illustrate the slow listening needed to tame the elephant; whereas, it is more common to see single-commenters dash in and out of a conversation.    If we were to diagnose our public debates from his perspective, Stone would no doubt point to the blame game that anchors much public talk.   

Maybe we need is conversation police--or at least referees to call foul when there is distraction, transference, or other forms of erroneous thinking derailing our public debate.  Instead, we often see today a more pronounced taking of sides and ganging up--both in online discussions and in mainstream media.  Stone refers to the necessity of a third story--one that is not anchored to any position but mediates the conversation by describing the facts as a third party not directly involved might.  There is no third available these days.


the philosopher's daughter


Tame your animal... this great car seat protector that identifies a space for your pet and protects your vehicle

Or, try this to soothe the savage inner beast

Thursday, February 14, 2013

As you head down the path, the moon seems to follow you.  It's a beacon but also a reference point--a startling constant as you move forward.  It returns to you, prying over your shoulder.  What are your constants that help you chart the complexities and sorrows?

We are not entirely distinct or independant as we like to think. our thinking is assisted by others; our ideas boosted by contact with their opposites, our imaginations inspired by the creativity of others.

I like this scarf because it mixes opposites: the light soft lace with the shimmering silver fabric with its flowing drape.  So feminine and mysterious.

Biologically, life does exhibit a profound interconnectedness.  A story of sailors who, wanting to be rid of an accummulation of starfish, chopped them in half and threw them over hte side.  Each arm of the starfish became a new starfish!  Whatever we try to cast off in life can also return to us, even perhaps in greater strength. This seems like an argument for really talking and listening to others, for avoiding assumptions and cherishing mystery, for recognizing the complexities in our varied circumstances.

“Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals. (attr to J. Isham)” 
― Sura HartRespectful Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Cooperati


the philosopher's daughter

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Brought to you by the color Blue

Blue woman wardrobe?  Intense color has a way of shaking out the dust.  Helps us see anew.

Modern experience: strange subliminal cues, mediated, hypertext, simultaneity, being instructed, coached, normed....

Is this hybrid approach our replacement for the engineering marvels of the past?  If the Erie canal had more locks and ascended more feet above sea level than either the Panama or the Suez, surely we "owned" the race to traverse time and space?  Later, we whipped Russia at the moon race to show our empire building knew no limits....  We can do anything, overcome any limit, right?

Overheard sentence: "Falling in love and having them turn into a zombie."  Yeah.   The usual order of things.  Ugh.  Superman carries Lois aloft on a magic-carpet sort of ride--Whee!  We are swept off our feet by human feats, and yet--have we really smarter than any humans past? Have we really outdistanced the wisdom of the ages?  Is history really the straight forward line of progress?  Does progress really require the trashing of what came before?

Maybe the real travel comes when we can see past our limited screens of self absorption, the peculiarity of experience, the rush of time yet sense of timelessness, our arrogant (and very real) sophistication, and our presumption of unlimited perfectibility....  Maybe we need to slow down to be fully part of the human race....


the philosopher's daughter

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wake up your winter!

Citrine and lime--Well this sounds like a cool drink.

More thought on "All You Need Is Love"... in response to the David Cain article on the Beatles:

I believe David Cain's response to the song, "All You Need is Love" is more profound than most of the listeners during the Summer of Love.  

As others have noted, the Beatles raised an entire generation, and for the most part, it was a simplistic view of love that should be critiqued more rigorously than it has been by our mainstream culture.  I do "get" Cain's reflection on a loving response as a litmus test  (to avoid reactionary responses to others).  This is SO needed in our culture today, yet most of the time, speech is set up in the media now as combative rather than really listening in a spirit of love for others generlly--

Often, those promoting "Love is all you need"  are dedicated to antagonistic push of a tired "free love" ideology.   This was, after all, a pop song, and the simplistic embrace of the Beatles' lyrics as endorsing romantic love meant, above all, promoting love as sex.  

To read the effects of this free love ethic on our culture, you need outsider eyes; whereas, the popular song pronounces love as all you need.   

  Let's get real--the Beatles were popularly understood to mean sex, and a free love ethic has dominated mainstream thought ever since: freedom in sexual matters gets promoted nonstop in our mainstream.  Hopefully, the new young generation will take what's good from the Beatles but also see through sixties rhetoric.


the philosopher's daughter

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.
Mrs. O’Brien, “The Tree of Life”

Ok, this is a true quote from one of my favorite movies.  But does it go far enough?

Is it just another rendition of Summer of '67 idealism?  We all hummed along to this catchy song, after all, till it became the central messge of tolerance above all else that is so with us today.

All You Need is Love

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known.
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.
It’s easy.
All you need is love

Love is not all you need.  You also need truth.  There's the rub.


the philosopher's daughter

This post is in part a response to David Cain's "7 Profound Insights From the Beatles." Thought capital. Feb. 2013.

"Boys draw verbs," says Vicki Thorn, but "girls draw nouns."  Have you seen this as well?  Are there differences between us that the gender benders overlook?

Of course, there's the famous book called I Am A Verb, by Buckminister Fuller.  He offers many fasscinating speculations.  One I particularly like is the recognition of an unseen world of activities that are not penetrated by those detectors of concrete reality that we rely so heavily upon: the five senses.  Truth does not make itself fully known in so straight forward a fashion...but requires dialogue, reflection, wisdom of ages even.

At this point, it's probably useful to acknowledge the reality of differences that are not just a matter of social engineering (she wears pink; he blue) but say something about how we are created.   Are we constructing an alternate reality in the way it was rumored the backers of Biosphere 1 built their self-sustaining biomes to provide a safe esacpe from spaceship earth's increasingly competitive and harsh environment?

The point is just to raise the question: what kind of systems are we building with our views, visions, and verbs?    Within, everything looks coherent, but reliance on the outer world is not optional.


the philosopher's daughter!