If you believe something is bad because it is…bad, or that something is good because, well, it’s good, you probably wouldn’t use that kind of reasoning in an argument – yet, sometimes, without realizing it, that’s exactly what you do.
If you think eating shrimp is immoral, you might defend that viewpoint by saying, “People shouldn’t eat shrimp because eating shrimp is unethical.” Ok, yes, got it, but you just looped back around without defending your original assertion. We are going to need to hear some justification for your views on morality.
Likewise, when explaining why something is true, we often unwittingly provide false clarity. For instance, you might read something like, “Human beings enjoy looking at each other’s butts because we evolved to appreciate healthy backsides.” Broken down, this is just a rephrasing of, “People like butts because people like butts.” There’s no answer here, no cause to the effect, no argument for or against, no explanation for why the observable is observable.
So why do we do this, and why don’t we notice it when other people do it?
You don’t treat all of your beliefs equally.
For some, you see them as either true or false, correct or incorrect. For others, you see them as probabilities, chances – odds. In one world, you live in certainty, in the other, uncertainty.
In this episode we explore why you gladly update some beliefs yet refuse to update others.
Each one of us has a relationship with our own ignorance, a dishonest, complicated relationship, and that dishonesty keeps us sane, happy, and willing to get out of bed in the morning.
Part of that ignorance is a blind spot we each possess that obscures both our competence and incompetence.
When you desire meaning, when you want things to line up, when looking for something specific, you tend to notice patterns everywhere, which leads you to ask the question, “What are the odds?” Usually, the odds are actually pretty good.
When your identity becomes intertwined with your definitions, you can easily fall victim to something called The No True Scotsman Fallacy.
It often appears during a dilemma: What do you do when a member of a group to which you belong acts in a way that you feel is in opposition to your values? Do you denounce the group, or do you redefine the boundaries of membership?
Why do you try to drain the world of color when backed into a rhetorical corner?
Why do you have such a hard time realizing that you have suggested the world is devoid of nuance when you are in the heat of an argument, reducing all every wavelength to black and white, and all choices to A or B?
When confronted with dogma-threatening, worldview-menacing ideas, your knee-jerk response is usually to lash out and try to bat them away, but thanks to a nearly unavoidable mistake in reasoning, you often end up doing battle with arguments of your own creation.
Your lazy brain is always trying to make sense of the world on ever-simpler terms. Just as you wouldn’t use a topographical map to navigate your way to Wendy’s, you tend to navigate reality using a sort of Google Maps interpretation of events and ideas. It’s less accurate, sure, but much easier to understand when details aren’t a priority. But thanks to this heuristical habit, you sometimes create mental men of straw that stand in for the propositions put forth by people who see the world a bit differently than you. In addition to being easy to grasp, they are easy to knock down and hack apart, which wouldn’t be a problem if only you noticed the switcheroo.