Friday, 4 January 2013

Dialectic vs. Tribalism .... Fight!

One of the problems that we have is that there is a very human instinct to stereotype and denigrate any (real or imagined) opposition community. It is part of our tribalistic nature, and it infects every sphere of human thought, even when we are not aware of it. (Especially when we are not aware of it.)

The truth of the matter is that other people are not simple and they are not stupid. They may be preoccupied with other battles, but they are generally smarter and more complex than we are willing to give credit for.

Fortunately, we have centuries of philosophical learning to help us tackle this behavioral bias. Unfortunately we do not have the time to absorb all of this scholarship  so we will just jump on the whole "Hegelian" [sic] thesis-antithesis-synthesis meme as a quick-and-dirty fix for our ignorance.

We have to discard our tribalistic myopia and become aware of the other battles that people are fighting - the preoccupations that they are focused on, and within which they frame their arguments and their notions of right and wrong. Any synthesis solution will incorporate elements of these other concerns:- "In such-and-such a situation, you need to worry about risk A, and take action B, in this other situation, you need to worry about risk C and take action D."

In other words, a sign of maturity in the debate over a discipline is the presence of increasingly fine-grained recipe books, within which increasingly tightly defined specialist sub-disciplines emerge with their own concerns and heuristics. The division of labour becomes ever more fine-grained as the economy around a discipline matures and grows.