Re: Are Beliefs Like Clothes?

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 18 Aug 1997 11:53:09 -0700 (PDT)

I wrote:
> The theory needs to be coupled with a theory that explains why it
> is easier to find flaws in ideas if individual people tie themselves
> to specific ideas, rather than critiquing ideas one doesn't feel
> especially tied to.

Eric Watt Forste responded:
>... a neurological theory ...
>formalized argumentativeness may be a form of physically-nonrisky
>display combat (common among animal species) that helps us learn how
>to use language and how to pick apart and analyze ideas.

I can see that people would want to signal their mental abilities via
conversation. I can also see that people might want to display their
ability to persuade the tribe to take some action they favor. But as
you note, we don't understand why this would require people to
strongly identify with particular views. writes:
>It seems to me fairly straightforward that assuming and defending a
>position -- even if in a provisional or improvisatory manner -- in a
>free and open encounter is a good way to bring to light unexpected
>flaws and possibilities in that position. ... I'm wondering just
>what *practices* you have in mind when you speak of general critique
>as opposed to position-taking as a way of clarifying one's ideas?

For example, in academic discourse people typically speak about the
strengths and weaknesses of particular views, and less often say "I
believe", even when they do.

Robin D. Hanson