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January 8th, 2004


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01:16 am - Subject lines like "this and that" *so* unimaginitive
Heard a great phrase the other day: "Stupidity often manifests itself as an insatiable desire to fulfill one's curiosity". Not doing things because you think they will make you look stupid is bad, but not doing things because they are stupid things to do is good, yesno? If so, how do you tell the two apart? Would you be willing to help me when I cannot tell on which side of the line a course of action will fall?

What's the point at which application of "do as you would be done by" becomes "being self-righteous"? Not even sure whether you can use DAYWBDB to justify your actions without crossing the line. Perhaps "You'd do the same for me, right?" gets the same message across and just sounds less preachy. What do you think, please?

For the first time in a while, I feel at rather a loose end tonight; Christmas is over, my cards are all done, I am waiting to hear from my accountant before working further on my accounts, my PC's hard drive backup is only a week old and I've now finished and handed in my database assignment. All my large short-term tasks are finished; it's now back to the longer-term necessities like working out how to make a living and so forth.

This probably also makes it a good time to think hard about _witchinghour_, the big Harry Potter event in Salem, MA in October 2005. The line-up working on the event is remarkable; so many people working on the event with such an early start means that it's got the potential to set the already high post-Nimbus bar remarkably higher still. Don't feel that you need to know canon forwards, backwards and have 30 famous fanfic writers on your Friends list to benefit; if the concept appeals, start planning and saving for your trip now.

Meant to say this last time but forgot: wouldn't bowling be even better if the video screens with the scoreboards (etc.) very occasionally did more interesting things? Much like there used to be a big arcade racing game which showed live video footage of the leading player in the race, it would be easy (and, these days, very cheap) to insert strategically-placed cameras in the ceilings. Then whenever you pulled off a tricky spare you could be treated to an action replay of the pins falling and whenever you scored a strike you would get an action replay of either you celebrating (as long as you were looking at the camera at the right time) or the rest of the players at your lane looking happy/sad.

My sleep pattern has gravitated towards Mountain/Pacific Standard recently, but I pulled an all-nighter with a couple of short naps to finish my assignment last night and this has reigned it back to something more sensible. A very annoying thing about habitually being many hours out of sync is that your meal clock gets out of sync; when people are serving a big dinner/supper, you only want a light lunch, but you also want a big meal later. The usual annoying, unhealthy conclusion is grazing on snacks between suppertime and bedtime many hours later.

Quickies: the Nomictastic Referendum Party are back, sort of, only much more so; the chart of days on which most SMS texts sent were sent suggests only an 11% rise in texting throughout 2003, which is remarkably small; potentially, didn't Billie Piper get off lightly in her choice of annoying sugar daddy compared to Britney Spears?
Current Mood: tiredknackered

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From:catalana
Date:January 7th, 2004 05:52 pm (UTC)

A few philosophical thoughts

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Not doing things because you think they will make you look stupid is bad, but not doing things because they are stupid things to do is good, yesno? If so, how do you tell the two apart?

I think I'd phrase it differently. It's bad to avoid things simply because you are afraid of looking stupid. It is not necessarily bad to avoid things simply because you think they are stupid. In an ideal case, the things we think are stupid and the things that are stupid would coincide, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it.

As for how you tell the two apart...I have a couple of thoughts. First, the distinction is between an activity in and of itself and your pursuit of that activity. (So, for instance, there's a difference between thinking dancing itself is stupid and thinking that when you dance you look stupid.) So first I'd think hard about whether you are judging the activity itself or your ability to engage in that activity.

Second, you might think about the grounds you have for making a judgment of stupidity - why do you think it is stupid? Do you think it is stupid for all people or simply for yourself? (This question is relevant because the grounds for thinking it would be stupid for you to do something are weaker than thinking it would be stupid for everyone. "Gee, maybe it would be stupid for me to go skydiving since I'm quadriplegic and deathly afraid of heights" is fairly convincing, but wouldn't generalize so well to everyone else. *grin*) Is your judgment motivated less by rational grounds than by fear of looking bad, say, or a desire to impress someone? If so, maybe the activity isn't stupid - you just don't want to do it for various reasons.

(I would note that, personally, I wouldn't go so far as saying it's bad (in any strong sense) to avoid something simply because you're worried about looking stupid. It might be a shame because you'd miss out on opportunities that you might enjoy if you relaxed a little, but I don't think it's a moral failing or anything, at least in halfway normal quantities. But I think this is the professional philosopher in me coming out, so I'll be quiet now.)

Would you be willing to help me when I cannot tell on which side of the line a course of action will fall?

sure. Of course, I may be wrong too, since I can't necessarily see what the best course is for you. But I can give you reasons why I think something is or is not stupid, and that may form a basis for your evaluations.

What's the point at which application of "do as you would be done by" becomes "being self-righteous"? Not even sure whether you can use DAYWBDB to justify your actions without crossing the line. Perhaps "You'd do the same for me, right?" gets the same message across and just sounds less preachy. What do you think, please?

I agree that the latter is less preachy. The former occurs a lot in various ethical theory (hello, Kant's Categorical Imperative...) and runs into trouble when you fail to do a good job putting yourself in the other's place. So, to look at one instance where it's sometimes used as a justification, suppose you supported life imprisonment without parole for anyone who was convicted of murder. Can you justify this position using the aforementioned principle? Only questionably - one could argue that, if you were the murderer, you certainly wouldn't want to be imprisoned without chance of parole. But of course you probably want protection for yourself and others you care about - you thus would want a law that you do not, in turn, want applied to you.

I would note that there are problems with this argument, as well, but it does illustrate a flaw: often we do not really put ourselves in the other person's shoes. It's easy to be self-righteous or imagine that you know what is correct in a difficult situation if you haven't ever been in that situation. But confronted with the actual, real-life problem...well, chances are you'll suddenly realize that there often are no clear-cut solutions and your previous attempt to see things in black and white resulted mainly from not truly knowing the details of the situation.

Okay, that's probably way more than you wanted as a response - I'm going to shut the philosopher down now. *smile*
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:January 8th, 2004 01:33 am (UTC)
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Thanks ever so much! That's a tremendous response - very interesting and thought-provoking. The ethical philosophy parts are definitely interesting but I don't want to take up much of your time asking you points in detail because I know I don't have the background in any sort of formal sense; you could probably more effectively just give me an accessible textbook or web site recommendation (something from a secular/humanist standpoint preferred, please, but perhaps it's the case that this is an issue where you can't effectively have such a standpoint) and then have me go through it thoughtfully first.

So first I'd think hard about whether you are judging the activity itself or your ability to engage in that activity.

That's an excellent point. (Your whole reply is full of them!) With one particular specific example in mind - though I was asking in generalities because the general case is interesting and far more important - it's more the case that I have a concept in mind that I haven't ever seen anyone do before and it's really not clear whether people have considered the concept and rejected it as a poor idea or whether it's something that other people won't have considered before themselves.

(DAYWBDB) runs into trouble when you fail to do a good job putting yourself in the other's place

Definitely true and highly relevant, as emphasised by your next paragraph. The practical follow-up question is "How can you improve your ability at seeing things from other people's views?". folk gave a link to (one of the) twelve skills for conflict resolution the other day which doesn't specifically answer the question, but does suggest some possible techniques which may be applicable in a related sense.
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From:sincelastjuly
Date:January 7th, 2004 08:00 pm (UTC)
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that bowling idea is insanely cool.
From:themightyuser
Date:January 7th, 2004 09:12 pm (UTC)
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639 DAYS TO GO UNTIL TWH! WOOOOOT!

I sent in my "resume" for Games Coordinator. I'll probably get it. Wheeeeeee!
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From:bateleur
Date:January 8th, 2004 12:25 am (UTC)
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What's the point at which application of "do as you would be done by" becomes "being self-righteous"?

Possibly: the point at which you say it out loud ?
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:January 8th, 2004 01:17 am (UTC)
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That does feel about right, but raises other issues. Is it any less preachy to attempt to use other reasons to justify your own actions? Is that just a particularly preachy sort of reason? Is the conclusion that you shouldn't do things that you feel you need to justify, without justifying them first?
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From:bateleur
Date:January 8th, 2004 03:37 am (UTC)
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Eeek ! Big Questions (TM) !

I s'pose personally I'd tend to take the view that it's almost never good to pre-justify my actions. If someone actually requests an explanation of some sort then it's hardly preaching to answer their question.

The tricky grey area is if you kinda sense disapproval but nobody's actually said anything.
From:daweaver
Date:January 8th, 2004 10:52 am (UTC)
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What's the point at which application of "do as you would be done by" becomes "being self-righteous"? Not even sure whether you can use DAYWBDB to justify your actions without crossing the line. Perhaps "You'd do the same for me, right?" gets the same message across and just sounds less preachy. What do you think, please?

For my money, "being self-righteous" involves a judgement of other people, whether implicit or explicit. It's actually very difficult to use "do as..." or "you'd do..." without putting imposing your own morality on the other person. I see the phrase as expanding out to "I'd do this, and I'd expect you to do this, so if you wouldn't do this, there must be something [ different | wrong | unusual | ... ] about you."

when people are serving a big dinner/supper, you only want a light lunch, but you also want a big meal later.

I vaguely seem to recall some research that showed eating a large meal in the middle of one's waking day, and a smaller one nearer the end, was better for the health than piling on the calories towards the end of the day. But I could be completely wrong.

only an 11% rise in texting throughout 2003, which is remarkably small

I think it indicates that SMS has become a mature communications technology, comparable to the penny post. Most people who want it have SMS capability, and there's not an untapped market that will provide 100% year-on-year growth. Absent a technological and public breakthrough (and no, picture messaging is not that breakthrough) I expect the rise to increase by little more than the equivalent figure for letters.
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From:randomknowledge
Date:January 8th, 2004 07:03 pm (UTC)
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I vaguely seem to recall some research that showed eating a large meal in the middle of one's waking day, and a smaller one nearer the end, was better for the health than piling on the calories towards the end of the day.

There were some older studies that seemed to show that this was true, however, the most recent reports I've seen say that the timing of your meals doesn't matter. The new argument says a calorie is a calorie, regardless of whether it's right when you wake up or right before you go to sleep. I honestly don't know which one is right.

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