RE: Extract from paper: The Paradox of Rationality vs. Integration

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sat Aug 04 2001 - 22:38:38 MDT

Eric writes

> [Lee Corbin wrote]
>> That's entirely true, it *may* contain such defects for the reason
>> that you give. But it is also always *possible*, I'm sure that you
>> will agree, that it contains inaccuracies, omissions, and other
>> defects that you are simply unaware of. :-)
> Well, they mean the same thing don't they? If I actually publish the paper, I
> must ensure that some people had discussed it and perhaps even peer-reviewed
> it. I would find it foolhardy to do otherwise.

They don't mean the same thing; I was referring to the inevitability
of inaccuracies, omissions, and other defects that will escape the
notice of all the people who help out. I'm glad that you believe in
trying to do your best, however, by obtaining peer-review and discussion.

> I define conflict here as:
> 1) An irreconcilable difference in thinking that remains irreconcilable for
> various reasons, including:
> a) lack of a consistent system of thinking (i.e. logic)
> b) lack of decisive knowledge (i.e. ignorance)
> c) lack of a common reference point (i.e. misunderstandings)
> I don't see conflicts as harmful or useful, because when they occur, it means
> something had gone wrong with our thought processes or knowledge.

In my opinion, this is not the customary view among experienced intellectuals
at least where I have grown up. Rather, intellectual conflict is seen
(especially by the perspicacious) as differences in values. Thomas Sowell
described this brilliantly in the book "Conflict of Visions". In it he
strives to avoid the usual (dumb) explanations that most people believe,
that their political adversaries are either evil, stupid, or ignorant.

> In the case of two opposing conflicts, it means at least one of them
> has no validity, or both [have] validity.

Not necessarily; within their own value systems, each may have
validity. Allow me to provide an example. Suppose that it is
being debated whether a number of animals should be bred and
treated rather cruelly in order to obtain information as to
the effectiveness of certain drugs. (This is not a hypothetical
example, as you probably know.) Well, some people place more
value on the suffering of animals than other people do, and
moreover, it's not black and white: there is a whole spectrum
of belief about how the miseries of animals should be weighed
against the miseries of human beings.

> This means we should rectify our thought processes and
> information storage so that we cease disagreement.

It's possible that this would be advisable or possible in
the future, after a significant transformation (e.g., the
singularity). But I doubt that such a description or an
attempt in the language that you have used would be wise.

> I suppose what you mean by "harmful" conflicts the consequence of not ignoring,
> converting or resolving by logic the opposition. Then, we may find results
> ranging from angry sneering to atomic warfare. Unlike some people who claim
> that everyone "is right in his own way", I think that we can (objectively)
> agree on a certain set of rules and logic. If not, then discussions have no
> purpose as they can achieve nothing.

We can agree on rules of logic. We can even agree on what constitutes
evidence and what are strong and weak arguments. We perhaps cannot agree
on values.

> As for "useful" conflicts, I assume you mean the open exchange and discussions
> of ideas. Such differences I do not classify as conflicts, but as potential
> conflicts.

I see. But is this consistent with the definition that you gave

> Whenever a potential conflict materialises into a conflict
> would rely [depend] on how people deal with it. In an
> irrational society, conflicts would arise automatically, but
> for a rational society they would remain as potential conflicts
> until the parties resolve them with new knowledge or exchange of
> information that reduces misunderstanding.

Well, we are still using the word "conflict" differently, so
I can't quite agree with that.


P.S. Let me compliment you on your superb mastery of English,
if it is not your native language.

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