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  #71  
Old Nov 13th 2011, 03:29 PM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Drunk Guy in the "Self Education on Modern Policies and Issues" thread
This question was posed to me in another thread...

While our government may be as equally corrupt as the day the Constitution was signed, the most dramatic change to effect our political world has been the failure of mass media. Where once investigative reporting was respected, applauded, and encouraged, we now find fluff stories and opinion pieces.

To find the facts and truths of the world, one must dig for facts independently. With the integration of the internet into most homes, finding information is easier than ever. Unfortunately, misinformation is far easier to find and often compounds the process.

For instance, let's say an avid Fox News fan decides to do some fact checking of their favorite talking head. Bill may have mentioned a blurp on television or radio about the favoritism "mainstream media" is showing the Occupy Movement. The person could search for "mainstream media on occupy" via Google and find the top article, "Mainstream Media Doing Damage Control for #OccupyOakland" on BigJournalism.com, a Tea Party/Establishment GOP media site. The second article is "The Mainstream Media's Fear of Occupy Wall Street" on TruthOut.org, a liberal news site.

Both articles are heavily laden with opinionated 'truthish' statements that support their respective sides of the debate. So where are the facts? Could your average American, a high school graduate with an IQ of 98, tell which article hosts more facts? Even so, wouldn't the cognitive dissonance they've held onto for so long distract them from ascertaining the truth?

Bias in the media has forever been present. That will never go away and there is no denying that. But when any Joe Dohn can start a blog and call himself a reporter, how can your average American tell opinion from fact? I've seen fully functioning adult men start to freak out because they read some crazy-ass blog about Communist infiltrators in Congress. In 2010.

Americans want to learn more, but the corporate media prevents the spread of knowledge. Rather than running reports about the success of lobbyists buying congressmen, they talk 20 hours a day (the other four are about sports and weather), 12 months a year about some alcoholic whore that's went missing in Barbados. So, where do Americans go to find the info they're missing? The blogosphere.

As I said, the internet has tons of valid, honest information. More than one person could ever read. But for every truthful statement, the internet hosts five opinions pieces that fudge the truth in a vain attempt to validate a point. Without the support of national (and even respectable local) media outlets, truth gets lost in the echo chamber.

This is the Age of Misinformation.

And our corporate rulers love that. They love that they have talking heads on the television and radio 24 hours a day to make passionate pleas with the public to abandon all reason and logic and go with that gut feeling. Most Americans were never truly explained what Socialism is in high school, but they all KNOW that Obama is a Socialist. And every gun owner thinks that every Democratic bill is a ploy to take their guns, and every feminist thinks every Republican bill is another slap in the face of women across the globe.

Yes, the onus of knowledge is on the individual. HOWEVER, in a society as complex and connected as modern America, the individual needs a real force to assist in ascertaining the truth of the matter. Opinions are acceptable, but only as commentary to the facts.

This is where change must begin.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...ead.php?t=2790

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  #72  
Old Nov 27th 2011, 10:38 AM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Quote:
Originally Posted by pramjockey in the Occupy Wall Street thread
Quote:
Originally Posted by drgoodtrips
I'm assuming that you're talking about in the USA specifically. If so, why is this? By what specific mechanism are poor people unable to become not poor? What are the barriers to this?

I ask because my perception is that these barriers are largely self-imposed. Getting loans and going to school seems daunting. Having children kills any time to burn the midnight oil for self improvement. And so on and so forth.
By any number of mechanisms.

Environment:
* The poor are far more likely to live in an environment where they are exposed to toxins, and from a young age. Especially of concern are things like lead and mercury, which have a demonstrated effect on learning and development - and are most likely found in highest concentrations in poor neighborhoods (old paint, near coal burning or petroleum distilling plants and heavy industry, etc.). These toxins have a direct impact on the impoverished's ability to better themselves because they start out several steps behind in mental and emotional development. Moving out of these neighborhoods requires money.

Schools/education:
* The poor are far more likely (especially with the end of busing) to end up in ineffective and underfunded schools, and face significantly higher challenges in getting out of those schools, because of the costs in doing so (transportation being a significant barrier, but not the only one). These "neighborhood" schools set a culture of failure, and there is often little reinforcement at home as struggling parents work multiple jobs in an attempt to keep the household together. Once of working age, the children of poor households will many times be pressured to work to contribute, putting even more stress on an already endangered education.

* As far as higher education goes - well, without that ACT/SAT score, scholarships are difficult, and without credit, loans are too. There is measurable and demonstrable culture bias in standardized tests as well - being an impoverished, nonwhite, and/or female more difficult.

Culture
* In addition to the cultural reinforcements within the impoverished, which I'm sure we'll get an earful about, let's talk about the cultural biases against the poor. Show up to a job interview in a suit that's out of style and threadbare - a thrift shop special, and you've got several strikes against you. We have a cultural reinforcement to want to hire the successful to continue our successes. Additional factors are already demonstrated - have a funny name on your resume and you're significantly less likely to be called in for an interview. If you can't afford a car, you are very likely to be weeded out for any number of positions that require "reliable transportation" and the ability to move freely around, especially in cities like mine where public transportation is a joke. If you don't have a job, you are also much less likely to be able to get a job.


I fully admit that there are contributing factors of choice within some groups of the impoverished that are unfortunate, and that contribute substantially to the cycle of poverty. Enculturation is a powerful force, and one that has to be recognized, rather than just simply looking down on an individual and saying "you are weak." When an individual is raised to believe that having babies at a young age is acceptable and desirable, and her social group reinforces that belief, and her parents reinforce that belief, and the media reinforces that belief, it is very difficult to step outside of that. Some individuals certainly do, but they are the exception, just as some individuals certainly are able to escape being poor (like my mom), but they are the exception.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...6143#post56143

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  #73  
Old Dec 18th 2011, 09:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drgoodtrips in the "Republican 2012 Canadidate" thread
The state of today's GOP seems to me like the logical conclusion to events over the past 10 years, perhaps more. I've been predicting since during the second Bush term that we'd see something like this (though, in all fairness, I thought it would happen in the 2008 election).

Specifically, the lionization of Reagan during the Bush presidency has led to the GOP appearing as comical as it does currently, though the disparate interests of the GOP constituents is the real issue. Ronald Reagan would be a pathetic excuse for a politician and a man when compared with "mytho-Reagan" as he exists in the minds of GOP constituents - slaying communism single-handedly while balancing the budget, cutting taxes, and doing all sorts of other generally awesome, and contradictory things. He's sort of turned into Santa Claus.

And, to many of these constituents, the single most appealing thing about him was the everyman appeal, personified best, perhaps, by the "there you go again" line. He embodied what has since morphed into a weird kind of GOP version of affirmative action - the idea that folksiness, oversimplifications and sound bytes are equally valid stand-ins for nuanced consideration, or, more appropriately, that idiots are every bit as capable of doing things that require intelligence as intelligent people.

Like a movie producer making a good movie and then subsequently trying to keep the dream alive with parts 2, 3, and 4, the GOP keeps trying to give people "Reagan, The Sequel." With part 2 (George W Bush), it worked, but turned sour in the end. However, with money left to be made from the gullibility of the movie-going populace, the message was sold that the movie just didn't rehash enough jokes or action sequences or gore from the first one, and so Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Christine McConnell, Sarah Bachmann, Rick Perry, and even Joe the Plumber were trotted out as the political equivalents of Friday the 13th part X. It's like that South Park where Stan becomes cynical... "This February, Donald Trump hosts blah, blah, blah, whatever, fuck you!"

The only question at this point is whether the GOP is actually at the bottom of this slide, realizing that it's time to think of a different movie idea, or whether they're going to nominate someone who is, literally, mentally impaired. At some point, they're going to figure out that the problem isn't that they haven't found someone stupid/folksy/extremist enough, and that maybe they've tottered a little too far in that direction.

But, the real underlying issue here is that the GOP's constituency is, and has been for a long time, fundamentally incompatible with itself. Evangelical Thumpers, Libertarians, Rockefeller Republicans, pro-government military lovers, Deficit Hawks, etc are not only sometimes misaligned, but some of them actually have interests that are diametrically opposed. Reagan was charismatic enough to unite these groups in what should have been a temporary alliance, but this was never something that was built to last. The brief success of Clinton/Contract with America and the quasi-evil, realpolitik genius of Karl Rove allowed this doomed arrangement to stay on the shelves long past its expiration date, but now it's rotting beyond the point of being able to ignore it.

As far as I'm concerned, the preposterous charade that's currently playing out is more in the category of weird, irrelevant details than it is a comment on the state of the GOP. The current crop of candidates and the game being played is a case of deck chair shuffling on the Titanic. The iceberg has already been struck and the boat is already sinking - this started a couple of decades ago. The 2012 election is a lost cause for the GOP, especially if it were to win the presidency because a Gingrich/Bachmann/Perry/whatever presidency would just drive home the point that manipulating the electorate into voting for idiots/extremists is possible, but bad for everyone. It would be the GWB feedback loop, but shorter and more disastrous. A more likely 2012 trouncing by Obama would be a more subdued, but equally potent signal that it's time to stop putting lipstick on pigs and consider a genuine strategy change - a realignment of constituencies.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...&postcount=189

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  #74  
Old Jan 8th 2012, 10:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suibhne in the "Good and Evil" thread
Alright, in my last comment I mentioned four things that modern scholars call into question regarding this part of Thomist thought: two logical and two causal relations.

1) If the best good cannot exist without evil, this seems to place a limit on God because it seems that God cannot create good without evil. There should be absolutely no limit to the amount of good God can create, but Aquinas argues that evil is necessary for more good.

2) As Non Sequitur mentioned earlier, evil is understood by Aquinas as a privation of good. With this understanding, all we mean by 'good' is 'not evil' and all we mean by 'evil' is 'not good'. This brings us right back to pramjockey's problem with how we're going to define good. Aquinas gives a non-answer - and, as I mentioned before, even when we include Aquinas' understanding of achieving good through virtuous action, it still winds up circular with no definitive meaning.

Those are the logical problems, now for the causal problems.

3) Evil is seen as a necessary means to good (this is better drawn out with an understanding of Aquinas' 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order goods/evils, which I didn't mention; I can talk about that a bit if anyone's interested). If this is true, that means that God is subject to causal laws; this is contradictory with the positive attributes God has for Aquinas and, again, would be a limit on God.

4) As an expansion on the three points so far, if the best of all possible worlds requires some evil, and a universe that allows for contained progress is better than a static universe, we are led to believe that evil improves good. That's shifty stuff.

At least on my understanding of Aquinas and his critics, I'm not left convinced. I may be completely wrong, but I don't think that a Thomist approach to the problem of evil is a successful one.

I'm also not convinced by other religious arguments to the tune of, "evil is defined as being against God's will" understood via scripture, apologetics, or otherwise. In my experience, which is admittedly very limited, there aren't any non-circular religious arguments to define evil in any objective way.

So from what has been mentioned so far, that leaves evil understood as 'unjustifiable reality' or evil understood relativistically.

I'm not familiar with Henri Blocher, but I suspect his arguments are probably vulnerable to either similar issues brought out in Aquinas, or else to the relativist counter: says you.

So, relativism. Well, in the original post, we're definitely looking at individual relativism: each individual decides relatively what is good or evil and is justified in acting according to their views. I think it's fair to say they're wrong insofar as we judge them from the overarching view of their community: murder is seen as wrong, so their actions, even with the best intentions, are wrong.

That still leaves us with at least cultural relativism: each community is able to decide what counts as good/evil, but only within the community and for members of the community. So if the actions of the rebel officers are wrong, that doesn't mean it applies outside of their particular community - so we don't have any objective view of what constitutes evil.

The best answer to this kind of relativism I can think of, if we need one, that I can think of is something like Mill's harm principle: people are free to do as they please up to the point that they limit anyone else's freedom. Of course, we are left with the problem of what constitutes enough harm to be considered a limit to freedom? Murder, definitely, but the exhaust from driving a car? It all gets kind of funky from here.

I've read a couple really interesting papers recently that attempt to give extra weight to a Millian account of harm using Yoga philosophy. Really cool stuff, although I'm in no position to talk about it, really.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...8063#post58063

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  #75  
Old Jan 22nd 2012, 10:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilettante in the "History at a Crossroad?" thread
Quote:
Originally Posted by Donkey
A self-inflicted reduction of liberty doesn't count in this sense. If I choose (have chosen) to reduce my liberty by becoming betrothed, nobody has forced me into that situation.
Hmmm.

I think that's headed toward assumptions about our ability to make completely "free" choices; quite a lot of oppression has been dealt out under the justification that the oppressed freely accepted it and wasn't really "forced into that situation."

Also, what happens if you decide you want to break your betrothal? Or, more to the point, to break a contract after you've received the benefits of it? Does my pursuit of maximum individual liberty (and or doing unto others what they want) mean that I should help you? Does it forbid me from trying to stop you?

Similarly, just trying to treat everyone the way they want to be treated is all but guaranteed to result in conflicts. Since we don't each have our own little universe to live in, the way you treat one person inevitably impacts the world and (quite possibly) the life of another. In other words, the way you treat the one person is inextricably linked, to some degree, to the way you treat others.
We try to deal with this in society through concepts like private property, drawing boundaries around the kind of impact that "counts." But I don't think there's any question that those sorts of concepts and laws necessarily lead to inequality and to doing unto to some people things they don't want done unto them.

I think I wrote this somewhere else recently, but I'm inclined to think that "liberty" is a word that often carries far less meaning than we think it does, especially when we speak of "increasing liberty" without specifying which liberties, for whom, and at what cost to others.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...2&postcount=43

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  #76  
Old Feb 12th 2012, 09:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pramjockey in the "Eternity and Hell" thread
As someone who doesn't subscribe to any particular religious belief system, but who also doesn't have any axe to grind against any religion, I find myself curious about religion. Some concepts really get my mind going; two in particular kept me up last night.

1) The whole concept of eternity: Especially when I think of my own understanding of how Christianity's various branches approach the concept of an everlasting soul/consciousness, I struggle to conceive of how a human consciousness could survive eternity. Eternity would inevitably turn into intolerable tedium, because eventually everything would have been done or experienced so many times as to remove any sense of novelty or interest. Eternity would become torture.

2) Hell as eternal punishment for actions by fallible mortal creatures: I know that there are different opinions about what the Bible says in regards to Hell, and I've seen interpretations that indicate that Hell is intended to be a consumption of the soul, not an everlasting damnation. But, there are many people (Christians, specifically, though I'm not intending to pick on Christianity here) who preach or seemingly believe that God is willing to condemn us to eternal torment and suffering for the acts of a comparatively immeasurably small period of time and by fallible creatures. It is fascinating to me that this is somehow seen as justice by those who asribe to this belief structure - that an eternity of punishment is a reasonable answer to a single act that happens during an immeasurably small lifetime.

I'm curious - do these things keep you up at night, too?
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...44&postcount=1

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  #77  
Old Feb 26th 2012, 01:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suibhne in the "Meaning in art - or not" thread
"What do you mean what does it mean? It's art!"

... something I've often heard when engaging people in conversation about art - of any sort. But what is that getting at, anyways.

The question is,
Does the analysis of art contribute to or detract from the experience of said art?


If I spend a few years dedicating my time to learning the ins and outs of musical theory and history, how does that affect my ability to experience music? I'll give you an example.

My girlfriend is a musician - specifically, a pianist. She has spent the better part of the last 20 years studying and playing music (mostly classical, but musical theory is the same across the board). If she hears a top-40 pop song for the first time, there's an extremely good chance after the first bar of music, she can tell you exactly where it's going to go: what progression the chords are likely to take, or whatever. Granted that most songs that fit the category are predictable by definition, that's most likely the music that we all come across in day-to-day life. Does she enjoy music more than the average person bobbing their head along, or has that analytic edge taken something away?


You have to understand that learning something so thoroughly cannot simply be turned on and off as is convenient. When she hears music, it's being filtered through her knowledge and familiarity with it because she has been effectively conditioned to experience it in that way. Play a chord, and she can tell you what it is (outside of some pretty strange ones: random diminished notes and what not); give her a sheet of music from Bach with a few notes moved around, and she can probably point out which ones; if we go to a show and a performer improvises a couple bars while playing a piece, she notices where others may not.

I'm setting her up for a bad argument: learning to analyse art in this way takes away from ones ability to experience it honestly. Such conditioning makes one cold to what should be the warmth of art.


That's a load of crap.

Of course art has meaning - intentional or not, you dadaists out there. In order to successfully take a stab at the meaning, you have to know something about it - and the more you know, the more you know. I don't want to suggest that any art has a wholly objective meaning, but there are better and worse guesses. In order to appreciate what an artist has done, and in order to evaluate it effectively as an audience, you must be familiar with the construction of the form.

You don't have to be an expert to enjoy art, but you have to learn a bit to get a bit back - and the larger your realm of familiarity, the more capable you are to enjoy the art. If you're listening to a song and have absolutely no knowledge of what's behind music, then you have no frame of reference by which to begin appreciating it.

Of course, as soon as you hear a song, you know at least a little something. You know that it's a song, that's it's an example of music. That's step one, and accordingly the shallowest enjoyment of art you can have.


The potential challenge for the expert, however, is in developing an ability to put all the pieces together again - a proverbial Humpty Dumpty. When analyzing art, you learn to take it apart and lay it out: in order to figure out just how a clock works, you take it apart and examine how all the gears fit together and what part they play. Once you have them all out on the table, labeled, recorded and understood, you put them all back in their place. Now when you observe the clock, you know exactly what it is, but in your experience you need to allow all of those things to overlap and 'melt' into each other again so that your knowledge speaks to you as a single experience, and not as just a list or diagram of parts.


I want to argue not only that on the one hand a working knowledge of an art is in correlation with and enriches the possible enjoyment of that art, but also that on the other hand by being disinterested in the art diminishes and otherwise stunts an audience's ability to experience it honestly.

In short, ignorance is not bliss - they just don't know what they're missing.



That's quite a bit to chew on, I think. So who's with me?!
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...ead.php?t=3108

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  #78  
Old Mar 4th 2012, 12:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Non Sequitur in the "Two Injustices" thread
Quote:
Originally Posted by NickKIELCEPoland
Society is constantly under threat by these two injustices:

-the threat that those who work much harder than average may not be rewarded proportionally for their work

-the threat of INHERITANCE, namely that children with rich parents get more than children with poor parents

How can we ensure against these two injustices and is there any history of individuals that have tried to tackle BOTH these injustices?
The central problem with guarding against these "injustices" (I am not sure they actually are) is who is given authority to correct these problems? The first injustice seems to be caused by a couple factors. These factors are human bias, human stupidity, and human imperfection. Frequently people don't get credit for their work because whoever is in charge has a certain bias that prevents them from advancing the hard worker. Stupidity also plays a role in that people just sometimes don't have "eyes for seeing" (as the Gospel says) and just seem to be blind the effort of others. Last, humans are imperfect creatures and are never going to be able to fully and perfectly recognize all effort.

So the issue is who is given authority to correct human bias, stupidity, and imperfection? Generally speaking, society has given governments the ability to try and correct human bias in the form of "Rights" specified by law. Civil Rights movements the world over are partially an attempt to correct this part of the problem. Unions are an attempt to correct the bias caused by greed. However, these are both very imperfect tools at best (as recent debates over Unionized work forces and affirmative action have displayed). Human stupidity and imperfection have a variety of control mechanisms usually found in the form bureaucracy, but these are also very flawed tools and any attempt to give legislate away these factors fails miserably. So your first injustice I see very little ways to fight beyond what we already have done/are doing.

Your second "injustice" I ask the same question: who is given authority to decide what is "too much" of an inheritance? I hope you would agree that the desire to make your children's future better than your own is a noble desire. Any attempt to give government this authority becomes an act infringes on liberty.

This goes to a wider point that liberty and equality are always at odds with each other. If we emphasize liberty, then we must deal with the possibility of some getting too much because it is within their rights to do so. However, if we emphasize equality then we must deal with possibility of society being able to arbitrarily decide when you have "too much" and take away your liberty. Pick your poison
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...0624#post60624

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Old Mar 25th 2012, 09:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Non Sequitur in the "Hitler Teaches us What?" thread
It can teach us a couple things. Please note I said can. these things are by no means automatic. I am going to put the lessons learned into categories

1. Theological lessons:
There are several important things learned here from the Christian perspective. Using the Christian lens, Nazi Germany teaches us that there is a check on subjectivity. The Holocaust is widely agreed upon to be down right evil. The people who reject the essential "wrongness" of this historical event are almost inevitably rejected by mainstream society (for good reason). To put this another way, I had a professor who said "the Holocaust is the negative absolute of Western society. Our reliance on subjectivity leaves our society, as a whole, without a definition of what is right or wrong. There is only one exception to this: the Holocaust. It is the one event that Western society, as a whole, agrees was evil."

There are other theology lessons. Nazi Germany and Hitler teach us that the Sin of pride is still the most dangerous sin and a Sin that can be committed corporately (I'll probably explain this more later). Church-state relations during Nazi Germany can act as both an example of the very worst of religion (see the Reich Church) and the very best of Christian belief (see Dietrich Bonhoeffer). Typically this event also illustrates that any attempt to argue that people have gotten "better" over time is disproved. There could probably be a lot more, but that is what comes to mind off the top of my head

2. Ethical lessons in relation to coercive force
Typically Nazi Germany is invoked in order to make a point about the use of coercive force. Mostly this point comes up in discussions about non-violence vs just war (or some variation of the argument). Sometimes I have heard the history of Nazi Germany and WWII to argue that violence is categorically wrong (due to Allied actions as well as German). I think these arguments are a little too simplistic, but Nazi Germany does tell us that ethical decisions surrounding violence are almost always messy. Nazi Germany acts as the ultimate "yes, but..." moment for ethics of violence.

3. Tactical/political lessons
There are a variety of tactical and political lessons surrounding Nazi Germany. These include don't fight Russia in the winter, don't fight America and Russia at the same time, appeasement gets you no where (this still affects American foreign policy today), and so on...

4. Danger of shame
I personally think that Nazi Germany illustrates the danger of putting an entire people group to shame. The Treaty of Versailles was all about putting shame on Germany. Hitler was able to use this shame and play off the people because of it. Let the lesson be learned that shame is dangerous

As always in history, there is probably a lot more. However that is all i can think of at the moment.

EDIT: perhaps the final and most important lesson is how historical fact can be used to teach a variety of meanings...
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...1817#post61817

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Old Apr 2nd 2012, 05:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilettante in the "National Identity" thread
Quote:
Originally Posted by NickKIELCEPoland
That's true, but I would add something - you cannot choose what you believe - what you believe is entirely beyond your control.
That depends on what you mean by "believe."

If you by believe you mean "that you feel that it is true" or "that it makes sense to you," then I'd agree that your control over that is fairly limited, at least in the moment (we can, of course, take steps to alter our feelings and perceptions, but that generally takes time and effort).

However, if by believe you mean "that you accept it as true" or that you "hold it to be true," then that is your choice.

We humans have demonstrated time after time that we can and do occasionally accept as true things that seem, even to us, to be extremely unlikely. We can and do at times reject assertions that feel, even to us, to be very true. Quite simply, we are neither wholly consistent nor wholly rational beings.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...2445#post62445

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