To read old books is to get an education in possibility for next to nothing.
You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.
Ask yourself what are the relevant topics you have yet to read good pieces on, and then try to find them and read them. Over time, your broader opinions will then evolve in better directions than if you focus on having an immediate emotional reaction to the events right before your eyes. The more tempted you are to judge, the higher the return from trying to read something factual and substantive instead.
Tyler Cowen on finding saner, more productive ways to relate to the news (if you must).
Count higher than two. Of all the mental habits that encourage polarization, the most dangerous is probably binary thinking – the tendency to divide everything into two mutually antagonistic categories.
Part of maturing, I think, is realizing that charges of acting in bad faith are often themselves made in bad faith, an attempt to explain away gaps in understanding between two people rather than trying to bridge them, or even make peace with them.
We make ourselves lists in order to know if we think what we think.
There is no finality in a list, just a promise that we will argue about everything listed, adjust our thoughts, and watch our feelings change over time.
“Against [X]” is often not just an effective rhetorical form but also a canny career move: against X as an implicit argument for the polemicist.
Plus, I wonder whether you’ve actually just talked about it in a non-charged setting and, if you have, why one or both of you isn’t accepting the outcome of that talk as your current reality. “Fighting” is really just a nickname for an attempt to renegotiate what you already know is the truth but don’t want to accept.
Oh, snap. Carolyn Hax bringin’ some real talk.
Be gentle especially when you’re right.
An addiction to outrage seems to afflict writers across the political spectrum. Opponents are castigated for being insufficiently scandalized by the atrocity of the hour, and authors of offending posts are roundly demonized and ridiculed. Silver linings are rarely sought in bad news, common ground with adversaries seldom found.
Delighted to see discussion of Zero Dark Thirty in this essay. I was so bummed out by the conversation around the movie last winter.
Conspiracy is a nearly irresistible labor-saving device in the face of recalcitrant complexity.
Some of my best, most mind-expanding conversations have occurred with good friends who agree with me on almost everything––but not quite everything. Bottom Line: Want to learn and get smarter by talking to people? Seek out those who agree with you on 99.9% of things, and then push, push, push at the niche-y, hyper-specific areas of disagreement. It’s not about groupthink; it’s not about confirmation bias. It’s about learning on the margin.
Cf. William Deresiewicz.
Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person.
It seems to me that the ears that are listening make more difference than the way the music sounds.
Many commentators are framing the matter in terms of raising or lowering the relative status of aid recipients. So it’s the aspiring student, the virtuous retiree, and the brave veteran, rather than the irresponsible bums. That’s a distraction (albeit a legitimate correction), as the real question is whether the political equilibrium is shifting toward takers. That’s takers as roles in particular political struggles, not individuals with “taker” stamped on their foreheads.
Various forms of crony capitalism arguably are on the rise. Is the political influence of the issue-specific takers, relative to the issue-specific makers, a growing problem in American politics? What does the evidence actually suggest?
Taking a moment to hunt for an interpretation that makes an argument good — before you denounce it as a bad argument — is a nice heuristic that forestalls the tempting leap from “There exists an interpretation that makes this a bad argument, but it may not be what he had in mind,” to “This is a bad argument!”
Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.
When lots of people are doing something and valuing it as a part of their lives, it cannot be changed by fiat, no matter how good the arguments on paper are for doing it.
A good rule of thumb is that diversity of opinion is essential anytime you don’t know anything about something important.
I’ve found there are two types of thoughts especially worth avoiding—thoughts like the Nile Perch in the way they push out more interesting ideas. One I’ve already mentioned: thoughts about money. Getting money is almost by definition an attention sink. The other is disputes. These too are engaging in the wrong way: they have the same velcro-like shape as genuinely interesting ideas, but without the substance. So avoid disputes if you want to get real work done. Corollary: Avoid becoming an administrator, or your job will consist of dealing with money and disputes.
The single worst argument Siskel and I ever had came after a coin flip, when we were unable to decide what we had been flipping for. We eventually had a two-out-of-three flip to settle the question of the original flip.
Rarely do I have any shittiness that stays shitty. I either resolve it or walk away. Rarely do I let shit linger.