April 17, 2004

Wizard's First Rule: people are stupid.
- Terry Goodkind, Wizard's First Rule
(All bolding in this post is from the same source ... same two pages, in fact.)

Every observation is an interpretation. What we observe, what labels we choose to apply, define, not what is observed, but ourselves. What we expect to see, we will find: not because it exists independently of ourselves -- but because we ourselves see it so, and by seeing, in our eyes effectively make it so.

There is a natural tendency to observe the outside world through the lens of our own paradigm. After all, we are the only persons whom we can more or less know and by whose standards we can to some extent impose logic upon the world around us. If we react in one way to a particular stimulus, it stands to reason that we might expect another to react (upon initial exposure to what we see as the same stimulus) in the same way we did.

When they don't, we become uncomfortable.

This is not quite the same thing as not expecting the reaction of another. Rather, it is that the other seems to have jumped in an entirely inappropriate or extreme direction in our perspective. We may say to ourselves: "They are not me, there is no reason they should act as me" -- but this is an intellectual analysis, not a gut reaction. The gut reaction knows only that it sees no reason for the other's reaction. Without an apparent reason for the reaction, the other has become unpredictable within the familiar paradigm. They have become "unstable", or "irrational", or just plain unpredictably dangerous.

But: no one acts without a reason.

Three options are possible here.
Being afraid something is true is accepting the possibility.
Accepting the possibility is the first step to believing.
1. One can pretend the aberration never happened. In effect, one is continuing to operate within the familiar paradigm, and simply ignoring those specific events/stimuli/observations which would contradict those stimuli. To some extent we all do this: a key factor behind our surprise when a dear friend goes and does something completely "out of character". Of course it cannot be "out of character" -- except insofar as we have interpreted that character, re-defined that character, within the parameters of our own paradigms.

If this seems a strange reaction, remember that there is absolutely no requirement to explain the behaviour of another. What is required is to resolve the cognitive dissonance between what we see and what we expect to see in ourselves.

(There are two different ways of perceiving truth, which I will name "additive" and "subtractive". The "additive" truth perspective holds that an absolute truth is defined in terms of what it embraces: that truth is most nearly approached in the sum of all perspectives. The "subtractive" truth perspective -- call it a "monotheory", admittent of no other truth -- holds that an absolute truth is defined in terms of what it is not: that truth is most nearly approached by excluding all which does not fit into that absolute truth. This second path may be by far the more common because it allows absolute definitions of "truth" and "right" -- which tend to feel safer than the alternative. However, it absolutely cannot admit of alternate possibility.)
People are stupid; they want to believe, so they do.
2. One can accept the "aberrant" behaviour as just that: aberrant. Without an identifiable motivation, without apparent reasons for extent or type of reactions, one can always resort to comfortable labels such as "unpredictable", "unstable", "unbalanced", "stupid", "idiot". They tell us no more about the "out of character" behaviour than we knew before: but they also tell us there is no need to know anything more. The "aberrant" behaviour has become its own explanation: the other acts without apparent reason because they are unstable; and they are unstable because they act without apparent reason.
People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything.
3. One can attempt to determine the motivation behind the behaviour. This is doubly difficult in that we ourselves often do not appreciate the true motivations in our own behaviour. Five possibilities open here:
Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it's true, or, because they are afraid it might be true. People's heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.
a) what we finally determine to be the motivation is not a motivating factor for the other at all;

b) what we finally determine to be the motivation is a factor, but not at all the major one;

c) what we finally determine to be the motivation is actually the result of our complete inversion of -- oh, for this purpose, call it "cause" and "effect", although more accurate perhaps might be the concept of defining a symptom in terms of its own symptoms. (Interestingly, this may be the major cognitive approach, after the complete dissociation of #2, to actively separate out our own perspective from that of "people" generally.)

d) what we finally determine to be the motivation is what the other truly believes to be the motivating factor, but there remains another, deeper motivation which may at some future point prod another "out of character" behaviour;

e) what we finally determine to be the motivation is as close to the core motivating factor as it is possible for another to understand.
For most people, it's not the truth that is important, it's the cause.
[ie. not the absolute "what", but an immediate gifted "why" ... as though one is distinct and separate from an absolute truth]
In each of these cases, our personal paradigm has the potential to expand to include another degree of possible reasons which we might not have considered for ourselves otherwise. However, with all except the last, the revised paradigm is likely to be challenged again at some future point -- unless we choose deliberately to subscribe to a subtractive truth.

In which latter case: the self-sustaining definition has been made, the criteria chosen. Where the cause, where the effect? Symptom chasing symptom chasing symptom: action doesn't make sense ("illogical") because a person is stupid; person is stupid because their action does not make sense within the parameters of a truth firmly accepted as both omniscient and objective ... as seen by the person choosing the labels. Of course the parameters don't fit! (How could they?)

What more needs be questioned?

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