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June 05, 2008



A long a complicated post. Much to agree with and some bones of contention.

First this:
The idea that a person's opinions matter in themselves is an aspect of our egocentric "me" culture - the notion that we are all special people, entitled to respect. But we're not. As Rumsfeld said, people are fungible.
Are you saying we should all accept being regarded as expendable cannon fodder? I agree that it is wrong to treat all opinions as equal no matter how illconsidered they are. But the idea of respecting people, as people, I would have thought has been the source of much social advancement.

Then this:
But it doesn't matter what you thought was right, matey. What matters is what was right.

I can't agree with. That is a useless criteria for humans, we rarely know what is right, and even less commonly did we know what was right at the time. Saying as justification he acted in good faith is perfectly reasonably. Saying that he acted as if he had certainty is less justifiable - but is that what he said?

As for the De Bono lesson about being prepared to look at things from different points of view I completely agree. And the point about the danger of personalising opponions. In fact this tendency of putting out half-baked ideas as though they are your own, and letting your public make fools of themselves, is one of things that keeps me coming back to this blog.

As to whether going back to Victorian hypocracy is a good idea, well I'm a bit more skeptical.

Tom P

Interesting post. I think the point about people's investment in an idea is a key one, and it's amazing the extent to which people feel the need to maintain fidelity to an idea.

Also agree about conflating personalities and ideas, it's a cheap way to argue. In my years of keyboard warfare I've seen it (and done it) so many times. It's much easier to argue against an idea if you suggest a cartoon version of the sort of people who support it (selfish nasty Righties/idealistic but clueless lefties).


Much to agree with here although I think you're overstating your case. Plus one or two of the examples you use don't fit. For example:

"So, for example, the debate about jailing alleged terrorists for 42 days without charge becomes not a question of the trade-off between liberty and security, but rather a challenge to Brown's authority. This is what happens when ideas are identified with people."

I don't see much connection between faith and this issue. I don't believe for a minute that Brown thinks detaining people for 42 days is 'the right thing to do'. It's a (badly, in my view) calculated move. Those opposing it are much more likely to be the believers but if people intend to oppose it merely because they don't like Brown, this too is pure calculation and nothing to do with faith either. I don't get why you think much of this has anything to do with a culture of sincerity - although where you *might* find it is if Brown tried to sell it on the basis that he thought it was the 'right thing to do'.


While truth or rightness of an idea is more important than who believes is (or how much); we need to trust certain people's views so we can adopt their views without having to work it out ourselves.

I'll believe Prof Hawkins rather than take a physics phd. If he's been right the last 9 times I'm more likely to trust the 10th if he is consistent and sincere. Just rationally using of my time.


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