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Old 01-22-2008, 01:12 AM   #1
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Avoiding Bad Thinking

We are all prone to bias, we join our ego's to our ideas and defend them on a personal level - because we do this it seems that we can very easily make unjustified assumptions for purely emotional reasons.

So the question is this, how do you avoid bad thinking, what sort of things do you do to make sure that your ideas are as solid as possible.

This extends quite broadly, example of an answer below.

My ego is big enough when I know I am right (hint: that's not the same as being right) to push a point very far, the best check against being stupid is other people - encountering new arguments and constructing them yourself. Knowledge is also very useful and being able to reflect on your own ideas and the justifications of them. FYM is invaluable to that end.

enjoy

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Old 01-22-2008, 02:14 AM   #2
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I had to edit to say, this is what I TRY and do:

I think if you're discussing something and you don't have a pretty good appreciation for all sides of the subject, there is almost no way to be truly objective and fair.

All of my hardest positions and opinions, I've come to after years and years and discussions and debates. I'd also say I'm very much a 'grayist', in that I don't see very many things as A or B. I think long battered arguments become tired and truth is always somewhere in that murky middle.

That said, I always take all sides into account and if I can't make an argument on both parts, then I'm not able to be truly objective. So I avoid bad thinking by acknowledging that I don't have all the facts and can't really be objective to the subject matter. So I can deal with that bias, because it hasn't been beaten up enough.

AS a consequence, I don't take many firm stances on typical hardcore issues (abortion, gun control, death penalty) or when discussing the merits of religion or God itself, I am ambiguously interested in trying to solidfy my position. I think this is something we could teach our youth, more often. You don't have to have a firm grasp on every single issue in your life when you are 25 (or whatever). Give yourself a chance to grow.

Maybe life itself should be a continuous rexamination. Seems to be for me.

I also avoid bad thinking by remaining continuously curious. I watch History Channel, PBS, Discovery, read wikipedia constantly, come here to FYM, trying to replenish my 'educational' years with information that was ignored while chasing down pink elephants.

Ultimately, I'd say an open mind to objectivity, curiousity, decided principles (even if few of them), self-realization of ignorance and constantly trying to form a more perfect ignorance.

Conversations like these on FYM are huge. If you're a person who has every firm ideal and/or principle in your life firmly entrenched, I have no idea what you're doing here other than to cause trouble. I think most of us are open.

Avoid bad thinking by being open to being wrong. Almost always.
That's not to say one day you'll wake up and say to yourself "you know, I think after 35 years of being decidedly Christian, I am ready to dump it all" but that if you've taken steps to reaffirm and examine, then that 'Christianity' or whatever ideal it is, will probably constantly change, not in principle but in form. Does that make sense?

For example, one day you don't wake up having to defend some kind of obvious ridiculousness. You'll just say "it's different than I thought it was" and move on to the next....

That's sort of my method.
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Old 01-22-2008, 05:27 AM   #3
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I try to avoid kneejerk reactions until I hear the other side of the story or more details. The times I've engaged in kneejerks here or elsewhere, I'm usually embarrassed.

I parse how other people construct an argument and determine what is solid (whether I agree with it or not) , what is emotional/defensive, what is nonsense and make sure my arguments are put through the same scrutiny. I also edit heavily and will walk away and go back and forth until I am sure I am saying what I want to say and until I've tried to consider the counterarguments that might be proposed.

(I will admit to having an easier time breaking down an argument than in building one up)

I hold very few sacred cows, which prevents me from being so wedded to an idea that I can't look at it objectively. (Not to say I don't have a few sacred cows, but I try to keep them at a bare minimum) I don't censor thoughts and generally am amoral in my thinking.

I try to be aware of my biases. I don't particularly try to eliminate them, but I try to monitor when they are interfering in an argument.

I'm not afraid of admitting when I've been convinced I'm wrong.
And I don't hide when somebody counters my argument or points out a discrepancy in either logic or fact. But I will adjust my position (even if only slightly) when the facts warrant it. I don't hide conflicting information even when it seems to weaken my argument.

I spend more time looking at the arguments that disagree with my position than the ones that agree with it (although sometimes I admit absolute delight when I'm on the same wavelength with somebody on a rarely discussed topic which are usually the ones I am most interested in)

I try to clarify the other person's position so I know exactly what I am arguing and I don't invalidate a whole argument because I have found one weakness in it.

I probably disagree with U2DMfan on one thing. I think it is hard to learn to counterargue until you've held a firm position and been knocked flat on your back trying to defend it. But maybe that's just how I learn.

On the whole, I don't get personal and I don't take it personally.
I've found that is tremendously helpful in maintaining both objectivity and clarity.

My ego is more vested in stimulating a good discussion than in besting somebody but I'm not adverse to occasionally moving in for the kill.
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Old 01-22-2008, 06:04 AM   #4
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I know this is the lazy man's answer, but U2DMfan's and BonosSaint's answers were so great. . .so. . .what they said!

I try to always recognize the possibility that I am wrong (though I usually FEEL pretty right, I can at least intellectually realize I might be wrong).

I acknowledge good arguments even when they run counter to what I think and I try to recognize the limits of my position (especially on the topic of religion).

I choose my words carefully.

I try not to let other people's agreement with my point of view become a kind of validation I have to have to feel okay about my point of view.

stuff like that. . .
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Old 01-22-2008, 03:49 PM   #5
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I don't think I do much of what everyone's said in here. I'd like to, in an ideal world with an ideal me, but reality and me dictate that I just don't. Not sure if that is can't or won't, but I don't. I hold people's view in contempt all too easily, and suffer endless impatience with what I perceive as foolishness. I guess it's ego in the true sense.
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Old 01-22-2008, 05:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint


I probably disagree with U2DMfan on one thing. I think it is hard to learn to counterargue until you've held a firm position and been knocked flat on your back trying to defend it. But maybe that's just how I learn.
Oh, I absolutely agree. I didn't mean to leave that impression.

I defintely have had firm positions, especially my younger self.
My 20 year old self would have ridiculed my 33 year old self for a post like that. (the one I made)

I started talks like these with my father when I was about 13.
We'd talk about music, religion, politics, sports. Then with my friends, most of them having the same type of interest in dialogue. For hours. We would break up parties and end up debating some philosophy or political issue. It was annoying, especially to our girlfirends.

And that pretty much continued for the rest of my young adult life. At one time, I was a brief member of the Young Republicans during my senior year in high school. I supported Pat Buchanan in 1992. I was a reactionary, borderline authoritarian conservative. You can't get much more 'firm' than that.

Needless to say, after that idealism collasped (not long after exposure to the real world) I sort of adopted a decidedly more liberal view. Then holding some very firm liberal opinons. I guess my world view at that time (perhaps 19-20 years old) was that you had to be some sort of idealist. Then after that idealism collapsed, I ended up on the road to where I am.

Oh, I've sat there for hours arguing certain points til I was red in the face only to realize years later how dead fucking wrong I was. Other issues, I still very much beleive, it's just there are a lot less of them then there used to be. I think nuance and critical thinking has taught me not to be such a hardliner but ultimately it cost me some backbone. These days, I'd rather be open to possibilties and truth than win a what is ultimately, a completely meaningless argument.

Yes, those type of discussions taught me a lot. It taught me that when you're wrong, it's you that has to change. You have to find out where your truth is. I don't believe in idealism anymore. It's just not realistic. I want to beleive in it, very much so.
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Old 01-22-2008, 06:06 PM   #7
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I think impulse control could generally be the key to avoid bad thinking.
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Old 01-22-2008, 06:50 PM   #8
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I haven't read anyone else's comments yet, I want to attempt to form my own before doing so.

I really attempt to keep an open mind about most things. I'm the first to admit when I'm uninformed about a topic, and if it's a topic that is of any interest to me, I seek to learn more about it by reading/listening to both sides. I then try to use logic to discern what rings true for me - which arguments are factual, which ones can be proven, and which ones are based mostly in one's perception. Sometimes, if applicable, I'll take elements of both sides to form my own thoughts and opinions about a subject. I also try to look for biases that might be inherent in the sources that I seek out. Having a bias does not necessarily mean they're wrong, it's just something to weigh in to the mix when I'm forming my own opinion.

I also find myself fascinated by the thought processes people use when coming to conclusions - what is it about their meta-cognition that helps them form opinions. With myself, I try to check to make sure I'm using the faculties available to me to come to a correct choice, rather than making an emotional decision.

I also like to think that my opinions are not carved into stone, that I process and integrate new information as it comes. I realize I'm not infallible, and that when we make decisions, we don't always have all the information available, so I think it's really important to have the flexibility to moderate or change your stance when presented with new information.

Good topic, A_Wanderer. I'm sure I'll come up with more as I mull it over.
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Old 01-22-2008, 07:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
I don't think I do much of what everyone's said in here. I'd like to, in an ideal world with an ideal me, but reality and me dictate that I just don't. Not sure if that is can't or won't, but I don't. I hold people's view in contempt all too easily, and suffer endless impatience with what I perceive as foolishness. I guess it's ego in the true sense.
Oh, I don't work that hard. Maybe 15% of the posts (generous) require that kind of involvement on my part. Not that many of the others aren't interesting in some way, but they don't require any real effort. But I can feel myself switching into another mode when I'm engaged. Then I'm more careful.
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Old 01-22-2008, 08:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by U2DMfan

Oh, I've sat there for hours arguing certain points til I was red in the face only to realize years later how dead fucking wrong I was. Other issues, I still very much beleive, it's just there are a lot less of them then there used to be. I think nuance and critical thinking has taught me not to be such a hardliner but ultimately it cost me some backbone. These days, I'd rather be open to possibilties and truth than win a what is ultimately, a completely meaningless argument.
Although I still occasionally enjoy the completely meaningless argument, I understand the change in perspective when idea meets experience. It becomes simpler and more complex all at the same time.
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
I don't think I do much of what everyone's said in here. I'd like to, in an ideal world with an ideal me, but reality and me dictate that I just don't. Not sure if that is can't or won't, but I don't. I hold people's view in contempt all too easily, and suffer endless impatience with what I perceive as foolishness. I guess it's ego in the true sense.
But on the plus side, your unrelenting honesty does a lot to keep you from "bad thinking."

I really admire your answer.

I just want to share my first memory of you (and really one of my earliest memories of FYM). You just tore into me over a comment I made--I think the topic was sex ed--and I was shocked. You misunderstood--I was actually agreeing with you--and when I explained that you were quick to apologize. I've liked you ever since!
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:37 PM   #12
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For me, it mainly comes through reading. I read a lot, mainly on the internet these days.

For example in the average day I will scan a lot of financial articles and a lot of financial/economics websites. I don't do it primarily because of my job, but because I'm genuinely interested in that boring stuff.

Having said that, like Mrs Thatcher ( ), I am to an extent a 'conviction politician', i.e., certain principles that I hold (as opposed to points of view or opinions, which is a different matter), I won't easily back down on or retreat from, so I identify with Angela Harlem's post in that sense.
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:41 PM   #13
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I'm so sorry, Sean! See, this is why I do wish I was more reserved, articulate and eloquent like some of you more admired people on here such as yourself, BS, yolland, and a few others. I shouldn't have ripped into you at all. I don't have a right to. I don't have a handle on 'truth', I don't have the patience (and seemingly the ability to read properly!) for a place like FYM.
I'm glad there's good people around like yourself who keep me sticking around!
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:48 PM   #14
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I have a huge ego. I tend to think I'm somewhat mixed on FYM. I can be calm and patient, then sometimes frustrated and impatient.

I think FYM challenges me. Seeing so many arguments, so many thoughts, so many ideas, it really does help me form solid, more well-thought out and researched opinions. I've become politically active for the first time, and am a big contributor in political discourse now, as someone with a knowledge of the ideas. FYM is a very challenging place, because there's so much going on, from so many nations, so many religions, so many belief systems ... it can be overwhelming.

I certainly think I've been guilty of reading posts to set up my own points ... but with much less frequency than I used to. I find myself more reasonable and unbiased thanks to what I've written and read here. My views have changed here, and are more solid now because of FYM.

I do think it's interesting on a personal level how I've changed. In 2004, I was very conservative ... now in 2008, I'm very liberal. I think FYM has helped to an extent ... I used to be pro-death penalty, pro-life, pro-war (well, pro-war at the ripe age of 13, of course ), and now I'm none of those things. It certainly wasn't because of liberal bias ... I was much more conservative! I think it's that, in fact, the liberal argument has just registered with me as making more sense. Seeing all the arguments in here ... some of them have really just been the tipping point for me, where I finally get it and the issue becomes clear to me. I'd like to thank all the posters in here for what they've done and how it has shaped my beliefs.

Hopefully, more time in here will reduce my "bad thinking" to minimal levels.
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Old 01-22-2008, 11:56 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
I shouldn't have ripped into you at all.
You are relentless and that is one of your biggest contributions here (as well as Benny and Joon ). You push me beyond my emotional comfort level to see how I feel about an issue as well as think about it. It's easy enough to hide behind words.
You don't let us. When Anna arrives, it's time to separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls. You get at the heart of a matter. You're an absolute delight.
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