In our journey upriver to wisdom, we are confronted with the shoals and shallows of bias, authority, emotion, fallacy and conventional wisdom. To navigate these potential perils and credibly argue our positions, it is important to understand four pillars upon which our beliefs are built -- authority, intuition, results, reason.
Argument is important, but most of us do not argue well. Worse still, we tend to think we are better at arguing than we actually are. Too often we dominate the discussion, we make no attempt to see the other person's side of things and we can't back up our positions.
Consensus in a Post-Truth World What Happens When We Don't Examine Our Opinions? Imagine you’re in the Louvre with your crew. The six of you have fought your way through the politely manic Japanese photographers, and you are all staring at the Mona Lisa. Do you all see the same thing? This question has perplexed philosophers for a very long time. I used to think it didn’t matter much. The great German philosopher Immanuel Kant, whose prose style made many graduate students weep bitter tears, tells us that all we have of [...]
The Importance of Evidence And Bayesian Inference I continue to be preoccupied with the question of evidence -- what constitutes evidence that actually supports the many, oh so many, opinions we throw out into the world either digitally or over a glass of wine with friends. This link will take you to one of the more useful TED talks I have watched in some time. It touches on bayesian inference; but before you run screaming from your computer,the concepts explained here require no great statistical fluency and are remarkably useful. Why are anecdotes not [...]
This is Part Two of a Discussion on Argument and Debate. You might also want to read Part One. I don’t usually go back and forth with people in YouTube comment sections. Comments are a healthy, liberating forum for millions of people, and I don’t deny that at all. I do find that the pseudo-courage supplied by digital anonymity makes it too easy for discussion to morph quickly into personal disparagement of the ‘so’s your mother’ variety; but the web is what it is, the good outweighs the bad. I will occasionally make a sarcastic rejoinder [...]
Most of us don’t argue very well. I’m not talking about the “…so’s your mother” type of argument — most of us do just fine there; I’m talking about debating points of disagreement in politics, economics, or anything where facts are in dispute and abstract reasoning has to come into play. Now, I should declare my biases here. Unlike Aristotle, I do not believe that man is, in his deepest depths, a rational animal. Nor do I believe that most people, much of the time, will change their most deeply held convictions on the basis of even [...]