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Changing Minds January 5, 2008

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy, Science.

The Edge (an online magazine devoted to the intersection of culture and science) has a fascinating series of brief articles from 118 scientists, social scientists, and philosophers on what they have changed their minds about.

“When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that’s faith.
When facts change your mind, that’s science.


Check it out here.



1. Moriae - January 6, 2008

I think it is plain that people change their minds on a number of things, but the curious thing about it is that the class of things in question are extraordinarily predictable. The most obvious and thoroughly documented class of things most people change their minds about (eventually) are their spouses. That doesn’t even count the vast numbers that have had that change of mind and haven’t or won’t eventually act on this change of heart–usually to the detriment of the other.

One should also ask this: if ‘changing your mind’ is such a noteworthy event, why would so many Americans also admire individuals who are so incredibly adamant and stubborn about their ideas as well?

But one needn’t know Thomas Kuhn at all to understand that there are severe limits to what people will allow their minds to have a change of heart about. I think it is an intuitive understanding of most people that your own ideas prevail over the ideas of others by having them die first–one of Kuhn’s sly points. That may be why historically murder seems to be a first choice and persuasion an annoying second option. To choose two topics with an admitted dearth of examples of such changes of mind (and with long lists of victims that seldom bother their conscience), one needn’t go beyond politics and religion.

Most people, in order to maintain beliefs of patent dissonance, go to great lengths to prevent incidents of blatant incommensurablity of their ideas being publically noticeable. They usually do this by controlling the number and kinds of people they allow to enjoy their presence. Political animals often ape the behavior of Mormons in taking great care about who they allow to be privy to the lethal political cocktails they allow to ferment in their minds. I would like to suggest that most examples of what one would point to as a “change of mind” are actually examples of attempts to reconcile and reconfigure already accepted nonsense in some manner that will allow the believer to ‘keep faith’ with an idea he is publically loathe to admit is foolish.

In religion this behavior to too obvious to note, but its presence in politics is blithely and happily ignored by all. To me it is one of the juicy pleasures of watching people like Clinton, Romney, Obama, and Huckabee play on this phenomena before the somnambulistic American public. It’s simply stunning how every four years (almost as predicably as cicadas) the American public gleefully loses its mind over the louts offered for us to vote for.

It may be as Erasmus maintained that, “the tedium of their lives is so far from touching them, that the less reason they have for living the more they seem to enjoy life.”

No doubt the public is being played like a piano again, but it has become a tiresome song. But that is the folly of life, isn’t it?

2. Moriae - January 6, 2008

When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that’s faith.
When facts change your mind, that’s science.

Should we add, “when changing your mind at home, that’s divorce?”

3. Forrest Noble - January 6, 2008

When a man changes his mind it’s arbitrary and inconsiderate, for a woman it’s her prerogative? Divorce is always the easy way out, stay in there, compromise as needed, and suffer?

The more that we learn new things, and analyze that which we think that we know, the better chance we will have to change our mind in accord with our own definition of better– to accomplish more according to our possibilities– to be recognized more according to our efforts– these are my simple hopes for myself and others in 08.

your friend forrest

4. cato on the greens - January 7, 2008

When a Supreme Court Justice changes his mind, its jurus prudence. When a politican changes his mind, he is waffling? What makes us prize those who wish to remain in ignorance to the variables of the world?

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