Philosophy Class Refresher Course

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What is it in human makeup that makes us go looking for the answer we want? When did confirmation bias become the norm, rather than something to guard against? Despite my best intentions, I find myself reading Amazon reviews and if I’m iffy on a purchase I read the 3-star reviews and talk myself into not buying the book or dog toy or widget. Is it a symptom of not wanting to spend the money? Or something more insidious?

I really don’t want to turn in my philosophy degree over this so my promise to myself is that I will try to be less judgmental. I will try not to pre-interpret or favor the information that I want to see. I don’t expect this to be easy. As we grow older bias seems to calcify. You know the answer to calcification, clean liberally with vinegar. I can be both liberal, and vinegary. Accepting and rejecting. I just need to temper things with a spoonful of sugary substance. Like tolerance for other viewpoints.

Back in the Stone Age when I was a philosophy major, I thrived on different ideas and contrasting viewpoints. I devoured books on subjects I knew nothing about. My philosophy professor would whap me on the head with a rolled up thesis if he knew I wasn’t giving things a fair chance to state their case.

I’ve given up on reading the news for the most part. It is so polarized; it’s easy to fall into old patterns of reading only journalists whose viewpoints I agree with. I think it has to do with our society’s sports complex. We must be winners or associate with winners at all times, or there is doubt about our alpha status. (Man/Womanhood?) My side always has winning arguments. Or so it seems.

What do you do when faced with confirmation bias? I’m open to alternatives or ideas. My natural tendency is to burrow into my introvert cave and not come out to play but the way things are going these days, it seems cowardly not to have an opinion, express it, and back it up with facts. Even in the face of hostility. Can I do it?

Can you?


  1. Tough questions for a summer weekend! And I know what you mean. Getting a balanced story is nearly impossible. We all want to be right because if we are right, others will love us. Or follow us. Or believe us next time. Digging for facts has always been my safeguard. Now I have to add a question about what whoever tells the story has to gain from it as part of my filter. I often think about the “is it true – is it kind – is it necessary” rule if I can’t figure out whether a story has merit. That doesn’t always work with news, but it makes me feel better.

    • Constance

      I think the need to be believed is a big one. I like facts. I like finding them. A local church has a billboard outside that has totally wrong facts, totally unscientific. I want to tape the scientific facts to the sign one night. Not that they would read it, their minds are made up. “Is it kind’ is important, but so often overlooked. We can get our point accross without being vicious. Although viciousness seems to be the theme of the ongoing times.

  2. and then to what extent should one tolerate intolerance, Connie? That’s what always gets to me. I try to be tolerant but too much tolerance is how very bad people get their way — and I do think there are bad people and a bad way, so maybe we need to fight that — not see their point of view because hey — they persist in refusing to see ours. And news? I more or less mistrust all of it these days. I am forever thinking ‘who’s behind this?’ and ‘what are they covering up?’

    • Constance

      The extent I tolerate it, is to walk away when there is no hope of civil discourse. So I walk away a lot. I continue to promote what I have to say, that’s my fight. Tit for tat never ends well, but I understand the urge. Especially nowadays. I went on a news blackout when I was on vacation. I liked it so much I’m continuing it. I guess you’re right, I’m not tolerating the intolerance and nastiness I see. I’ve also gained a lot of time to do other things I enjoy. A bonus for my intolerance? 🙂

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