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Possible link between plasticity and philosophical knowledge?


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#1 TZK

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 11:30 PM

Philosophy is a strange subject. People that understand in value it seem to defend it with their lives. While other people do not even remotely understand it 's purpose.

From my dealings with people regarding philosophical ideas, I have gotten the impression that there are people who just can't see philosophical truths and it is very hard to get them to open up to such truths.

For example, I often speak to people about looking for things that might prove themselves wrong. And often people will say something in agreement with the idea or just indicate that they can tell and admit when they are wrong.

And yet often these people do things which directly contradict such ideas while acting on instinct. Yet they cannot see that their instincts are causing them to do so. Where on the other hand my instincts cause me to never disregard things which contradict what I believe and often investigate them thoroughly.

I can speak of various fallacies, but other people commit them frequently on instinct while my instincts drive me to avoid them. And yet, these same people speak as if they do not believe they are doing any such thing. Again as if they are blind to how their instincts are driving them to do it.

And it is clear to me how my evolved instincts allow me to learn and categorize knowledge oh so much faster than other people. How confusing it must be for them to be reasoning in circles while using a tool that seems to have many logical fallacies as basic premises.

If you instinctively value beliefs based on how many people you know agree with that belief, then you would have trouble questioning this very process. Only when the majority of people doubt such reasoning would you be able to overcome such instincts. Otherwise the instincts would not allow you to consider that this method of valuing beliefs might be flawed.

I believe there are many such hurtles in learning where if you instinctively understand some idea then you are capable of learning much faster afterwards.

Another few examples:

Minimalism/reductionism: This allows you greater processing efficiency and therefore reduced frustration when dealing with otherwise complex concepts....

Non minimalist: Honesty is about integrity, and integrity is about having a strong character such that you say what you mean and mean what you say. If you don't say what you mean then how can you mean what you say? If a person.... ad infinitum

Minimalist: People speak of dishonesty when they learn they have been given false or lacking information that they then planned, acted, or reasoned upon and the person giving the information knew it was false or incomplete. Honesty is simply refraining from doing this. (Context is definition)

Coherentism: People often say the same thing in different terms or language, and it is useful to be able to change between different iterations of the same group of core beliefs so that you can compare and perhaps learn from other people's ideas.

Native american coherentist, white non coherentist:

Native american coherentist: The wind spirit brings many leaves from the east.
White man, non coherentist: No, the wind blew them.
Native american coherentist: That is what I said.

Both coherentist version:

Native american: The wind spirit brings many leaves from the east.
White man: I thought the wind spirit hailed from the west today?

Other: Also I would imagine there are other, perhaps less philosophical instinctive beliefs that affect ones ability to learn. For example, whether or not a given person automatically looks for patterns that they could then categorize rather than leaving patterns for someone else to worry about.

Non Instinctive inducer student:

Math teacher: To change 2/4 to eights, multiply it by 2/2. Multiply 1/2 by 4/4 to get 1/2 in terms of 8.

Student: Why would you do any of that?

Instinctive inducer student:

Math teacher: To change 2/4 to eights, multiply it by 2/2. Multiply 1/2 by 4/4 to get 1/2 in terms of 8.

Student: I notice that each time you multiply by something over itself. Is there a reason for that? (This student, having premises to reason upon, goes on to deductively make the connection between fractions equivalent to 1 and the identity property of multiplication)


Anyways to get to the main topic, I can see how instinct level knowledge of certain philosophical concepts and just other general learning concepts could greatly increase a persons ability to learn.

While a philosophically inclined person would perhaps gather vast amounts of information from their everyday experiences, a less philosophically inclined person would basically see the same thing everyday as they:

1) Instinctively disregard the majority of information that contradicts what they already believe,

2) Instinctively disregard information that is presented to them in an unusual manner, and be less capable of explaining to and therefore getting responses from people that use different terminology and ideas to describe similar phenomenon

3) Avoid complex ideas and issues believing such things result in infinite fruitless thought.

Perhaps rather than trying to explain people who learn less by saying that they have less plasticity, we should be saying that they have less plasticity because they learn less. And then ask, how can we train a person's subconscious mind so that they instinctively reason using these certain truths and therefore learn more from their everyday experiences?

It is clear that some people (like me) have these truths ingrained upon us from an early age as we are taught that they are necessary for survival while others are more likely to go with the flow (since the default is just to trust that which takes care of and feeds you, other people) Then these ideas become part of my instincts.

However I have gained more and more as time has gone by, which leads me to believe that other people can as well. Worst case scenario, instead it is just the case that one of these instinctual truths opened me to learning all the others. But maybe even in that case with full knowledge of this we could find a way to bring that same logic based instinct to others which they could then use to learn the others. Best case scenario, they can all be taught or trained to people.

If all of this is the case, my guess is that the worst case is true and that skepticism is the fundamental instinct that gives people a level of self awareness that allows them to start influencing their own instincts and perhaps their own ability to learn.