[Paleopsych] absolutists, contextualists; (step into my world)
Thrst4knw at aol.com
Thrst4knw at aol.com
Wed Jun 22 19:43:16 UTC 2005
1. I can't help noticing that there's some degree of asymmetry to this
suggestion. People who agree with this notion of thinking more like other people
are probably generally speaking more contextualist than not. The very idea
that you can meaningfully and usefully think more like someone else and less like
yourself seems to me to require at least some small acknowledgement that
human thinking is fundamentally contextual in some way?
2. I'd be very surprised if you could get any agreement that Republicans and
Democrats think in characteristic ways that are different from each other
unless you froze each party at a particular moment in time and did a fairly
sophisticated analysis of the common patterns in their reasoning. Party
identification certainly seems to draw on ideological committments, I would agree, and to
an increasing degree in recent years. Yet it is much less straightforward
as to what "think like a party member" means because parties are not simply
traditions of reasoning or ideologies. The dramatic recent shift of the
Republican party in the U.S. to some sort of odd alliance between almost statist
neo-conservatism and religious conservatism, and the shift of the Democratic Party
in the U.S. to a relatively amorphous collection of principles seems like a
good case in point.
Some strategies for trying to think like someone else when their ideas
initially appear strange are linked informally to what is known as "Miller's Law"
after cognitive psychologist George Miller, who put it in this awkward but oddly
"In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that
it is true, and try to imagine what it could be true of." (Interview with
Elizabeth Hall, Psychology Today, January 1980, pp.38-50 and 97-98)
In practice, figuring out what someone else's odd belief might be true of can
be extremely challenging, when you try to apply this to things like different
ideological or metaphysical committments, but I think the principle applies
very generally if you are willing to be very flexible in interpreting "what it
could be true of." That is, in what world and after making what assumptions
and accepting what background conceptual models and making what definitions
would this person's belief make perfect sense.
This is part of the concept behind neurolinguistic programming and (Milton)
Ericksonian therapy methods, and they take it so far sometimes as to try to
step into the world of the psychotic, with varying degrees of success.
In a message dated 6/21/2005 5:02:56 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
waluk at earthlink.net writes:
Even better is:
If Republicans spent more time trying to think like Democrats and Democrats
trying to think like Republicans, understanding would be increased and debates
could become more constructive.
Michael Christopher wrote:
If absolutists spent more time trying to think like
contextualists and contextualists trying to think like
absolutists, understanding would be increased and
debates could become more constructive.<<
--That's a great statement. I've never heard it put so
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