Judging Judgment

Friday, July 02, 2010

Although I normally use a feed reader to get myself up to speed on recent news and commentary, I found myself pleasantly surprised this morning by a blog posting by Jason Crawford from over two months ago.

His post, "How to Work with 'Stupid' People," pertains to both the Ground Zero "Property Rights" debate and some thoughts of my own on the need to take the requirements of human cognition into account when debating others. As I was the other day, Crawford takes honesty and common purpose as baselines in his discussion, which details possible sources of misunderstanding or reasonable disagreement among intelligent, motivated individuals.

I'll assume that you're not just lashing out at others as a defense mechanism against your own insecurities (although you need honestly ask yourself that). I'll assume that you sincerely believe that other people are stupid, probably based on finding it difficult to discuss things and agree with them.

But what you're really evaluating is their judgment. Differences in judgment are rarely due to stupidity -- in work, in friendships or in politics. You can't address the problem until you identify the real cause. Calling everyone "stupid" leaves you with no next steps. [minor format edits, emphasis in original]
The above goes just as well for hastily writing someone off as "immoral."

Crawford covers several things I didn't in my earlier post, either because I wasn't focused on them, or hadn't thought of them at all.

A point I see in his post that dovetails with my thinking in this area is that introspection may well be an under-appreciated tool in communicating with others in several broad areas: (1) avoiding errors in one's own thinking, (2) unearthing possible communication errors, (3) discovering or anticipating legitimate reasons for disagreement, and (4) discovering possible errors in someone else's thinking. Some of these clearly involve introspection in the sense of putting oneself in the shoes of the other person.

Read the whole thing.

-- CAV


HaynesBE said...

Thanks for these thoughts and the link.

I have been having some similar musings in regards to an exchange on my blog. The question which has kept going through my mind this morning is: what is the other person's purpose in our exchanges?

First I had to work (introspect) on what is my purpose? I have decided that my purpose is to better understand my point of view and thinking through interacting and trying to understand people who do not agree with me. Doing this in writing ups the ante for my own self discipline in thinking.

The distinction between debate and discussion also help me to clarify this. (Sorry I can't find the link to that right now.)

So the next step is to ask the other participant---what is his purpose? If it is to "win" the debate rather than deepen our mutual understanding, that changes the whole character of the interaction---and might even make it no longer worth my time.

Thanks again for extending the thinking on this issue.

Gus Van Horn said...

You're welcome.

You seem to have a similar objective to mine. My primary purpose is to understand things better for my own benefit. A close second is reaching receptive minds in order to exchange information or bounce things around to my and their mutual benefit.

I have found over the years that, with the greater self-confidence in my own thinking I have reached, that disagreement doesn't really "get to me" very much, and that I feel only weariness when confronted with people more concerned with "winning" "arguments" as an end in itself or as a boost to their pseudo-self-esteem, rather than a real exchange of ideas.

Jim May said...

Gus, you are doing in stages what I said I'd do in my own mosque post: thoroughly examine this entire issue of how Objectivists handle disagreements. In the long run, it's of far greater importance to me.

Thanks for posting your thoughts.

Gus Van Horn said...

You're welcome, Jim.

I'm glad you've found my thoughts about this helpful, and I'll be eager to hear your own.