• Wholly agreed…and thoroughly implicated in this whole mess. I’ve got a frickin’ Arlington full of feline collapsed-wave-function victims. Irritates me that I am still so prone to it. I’d like to blame my Irish temper, but that’s a dodgy cop. I suppose I can comfort myself in the thought that this is a journey, and I’m probably going to be playing whack-a-mole with the implanted Fundamentalist programs (“Good!” “Bad!”) to some degree for the rest of my life. Oddly enough, I find I lapse into absolutism far less often when I’m creating on a regular basis.

    February 21, 2006
  • …a frickin’ Arlington full of feline collapsed-wave-function victims.

    That got a laugh from me. Yes, it’s an unbelievably tencious impulse. Like I said, I struggle with it all the time. I think the struggle is worthwhile, even if we don’t ever get a clear-cut victory (heh heh).

    February 21, 2006
  • Excellent article, Bob, and you gave an excellent essay to accompany it. However, I’d be curious to know how many of us actually DO have black-and-white worldviews or “answers”, and how many are paying lip service to the idea.

    I can’t think of anyone I know who would be flattered if I told them they were moral absolutists (as one example). However, I could easily change “dedication to absolutes”, (which, in modern vernacular, is equated with…what? closed-mindedness, intellectual laziness?) to “strong convictions”, which carries quite a different, and infinitely more flattering, connotation.

    We romanticize those with convictions as all sorts of things- principled, passionate- and, furthermore, unless said convictions come wrapped in the (rightfully named) anti-intellectual banner of “faith”, we tend to assume that anyone with a black and white view has arrived at such views through extensive introspection. For many, intellectual mutability or “relativism” has more to do with tolerating other’s absolutes than not having any of your own. There are no social rewards for lacking an absolute worldview- in fact, the absence of such is considered a personality flaw.

    I think many lines can evolve and be crossed and changed and moved to the left or right internally, but I feel that there’s an unnatural pressure to appear firm and unyielding, from both the left and the right. Therefore, while I don’t disagree with your goals, I am less sure of what our ‘natural’ inclination is.

    Or, more likely, I invented pressure that doesn’t exist, and my entire value system is completely ass-backwards. Pick one.

    February 21, 2006
  • Hmmm. I didn’t think of this issue in terms of social pressure to appear one way or another. I certainly agree that rigid, dichotomous thinkers probably consider themselves principled or resolute, rather than closed-minded morons. You’re right that in many circles, being unbending in one’s worldview is a virtue (else talk radio as we know it wouldn’t exist, and “Dr.” Laura Schlesinger would be reduced to making a <precarious> living on her back). But I’m not sure that external motivations are the important issue here.

    From the inside I know it’s uncomfortable to entertain ambiguity. I think self-doubt is often painful, even (maybe especially) for people who have a lot of it. Some people struggle with that uncertainty, others hide from the pain in absolutes. The common wisdom that gay bashers are afraid of their own tendencies, for example, probably has some basis in truth.

    And I don’t think the difficulty of tolerating uncertainty applies solely to one’s beliefs: it can be excruciating to take a big test and wait a week to get the results.

    February 22, 2006

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