|what is naivety
||Independence from expert knowledge / opinion
||Accept received wisdom / opinion
||Unaware of risk and opportunity
||Lack of critical distance
||Vulnerable to superstition
We believe in magic because magic sometimes works. Primitive
man believed that if you want something to fly, you attach a symbol of
flight. So they tied feathers to their arrows. As luck would have it, this
improved the aerodynamic qualities of the arrows, thus confirming their
superstitions. But primitive man's superstitions are as nothing compared
to the superstitions of the modern technology user. (Think of the 'magical'
powers attributed to Bill Gates.)
In fact, primitive man was much more scientific than modern man. He
was much more determined to find explanation for things, to look for causes
and patterns. Perhaps his goat died, while his neighbour’s goat thrived.
Or perhaps lightening stuck his barn. In the absence of any other explanation,
he speculated that perhaps his behaviour, or the behaviour of his enemies
(human or supernatural) had somehow caused his goat’s demise, or barn’s
ignition. Whereas modern man will shrug and say: There is nothing to explain,
it’s just random chance, bad luck.
If it happens again, the primitive man’s hypothesis is confirmed. (Primitive
man was always ready to test hypotheses by direct experiment.) Sheer coincidence,
says modern man. The primitive belief is not science but superstition.
But it is modern man who is more superstitious. The faintest whisper
of unorthodox causal mechanisms provokes an irrational response. When a
strange pattern is observed, he will often cling to the metaphysical hypothesis
of ‘coincidence’. Or shouts fraud, or denies the pattern. From Sheldrake’s
weird but scientifically scrupulous theory, to unorthodox medicine and
weird phenomena, the professional ‘scientist’ adopts ad hominem
arguments: If it is propounded by a crank, then it MUST BE unscientific.
||The debate about genetic
engineering is starkly polarized. Either you are an automatic enthusiast
for Technological Progress, and believe that genetically modified crops
should be disseminated as quickly as possible, as a solution to World Hunger,
or perhaps to promote the political and economic interests of Our Farmers.
Or you see genetic engineering as a uniquely terrifying innovation, set
to reap Pestilence, Plague and Famine across the world.
||Attitudes to technology generally polzarize into neophilia
/ neophobia, good magic / bad magic.
It often seems practically impossible to maintain any middle ground
between two extremes, or to explore a Both/And position.
Thinking the unthinkable has become a fashionable assignment. In the
UK, Tony Blair asked Frank Field to "think the unthinkable" on welfare
reform - and then sacked him when he failed. Fashionable assignment - or
But what exactly does the phrase mean? Are people attempting to transcend
the constraints of logic, thinking impossible things before breakfast,
like the Red Queen in Alice?
Or does the phrase refer to those thoughts that are logically possible
but are inaccessible to us, thanks to some psychological or cultural blocks?
There are many thoughts that we find impossible to bear, impossible even
to formulate, which represent our confrontation with the Real. Each person,
each organization, each society has a different set of these "unthinkable"
But look where the phrase is used: party politics, journalism, many
business organizations. These are places where thinking
- any kind
of hard thinking - is not highly valued. Thus
thinking the unthinkable
means actually thinking (for a change). It means unthinkably
|A third-class mind is only happy when it is thinking
with the majority. A second-class mind is only happy when it is thinking
with the minority. A first-class mind is only happy when it is thinking.
|We can interpret thinking the unthinkable
basis of A.A. Milne's distinction. It is what the third-class mind supposes
the second-class mind to be doing.
In general. Google is thinking with the majority. But when I searched
Google for "Thinking with the Majority" (in quotes), I only got three pages.
A few people quoting A.A. Milne with or without further comment, with or
without proper attribution. Plus a couple of references to Camus.
Searchdate: November 3rd, 2003.
||veryard projects > kmoi
This page last updated on November 14th, 2003
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