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What network of habits permeates our actions?


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#1    coberst

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 11:24 AM

What network of habits permeates our actions?

I think that we are in a period that might be called a “fork in the road”.  If we do not find a better path into the future there very well may not be a future for humanity.

I think we have the capacity, i.e. brain power, but we lack the character, sophistication, and will to do the things that will lead to a revolutionary adjustment.  This is, I think, a time when young people either get off their ‘intellectual couch’ ditch their intellectual ‘Twinkies and chips’ and get an intellectual life or their children my not have an opportunity.

I say that an ‘intellectual life’ is necessary but not sufficient for their future.  I say that the day when the ‘happy mean’ is sufficient is dead and gone.  

What is character?  Character is the network of habits that permeate all the intentional acts of an individual.

Character is an important component for an ideal intellectual.  I would say that an ideal intellectual would have the same kind of character as does an ideal journalist.

One significant advantage engineering, physics and much of the natural sciences has is that they speak in mathematical terms.  The individuals often speak in formulas or mathematical verbiage that is clear and concise and understandable by all the members.  The use of every day words like habit can be confusing because of a lack of clarity.  One might also think of attitude as a proper way to describe what I call habit.

What is character?  Character is the network of habits that permeate all the intentional acts of an individual.

I am not using the word habit in the way we often do, as a technical ability existing apart from our wishes.  These habits are an intimate and fundamental part of our selves.  They are representations of our will.  They rule our will, working in a coordinated way they dominate our way of acting.  These habits are the results of repeated, intelligently controlled, actions.  

Habits also control the formation of ideas as well as physical actions.  We cannot perform a correct action or a correct idea without having already formed correct habits.  “Reason pure of all influence from prior habit is a fiction.”  “The medium of habit filters all material that reaches our perception and thought.”  “Immediate, seemingly instinctive, feeling of the direction and end of various lines of behavior is in reality the feeling of habits working below direct consciousness.”  “Habit means special sensitiveness or accessibility to certain classes of stimuli, standing predilections and aversions, rather than bare recurrence of specific acts.  It means will.”

Because each job requires a different type of character a journalist would make a lousy military officer and vice versa.  

What might be the ideal character traits of these two professions? It seems that the military officer should be smart, well trained, obedient and brave. The journalist should be smart, well trained, critical and intellectually honest. The journalist must have well-developed intellectual character traits and be skillful in critical thinking. The military officer should be trained to act according to a distinct program in critical circumstances.

The role of the journalist in wartime has evolved dramatically in the last 50 years. During WWII the journalist acted as cheerleader and propagandist. During the Vietnam War the journalist often played the role of critical analyst. While one can see some positive reasons for the cheerleader and propagandist I will assume that overall this is not a proper role for the journalist in a democracy. The ideal journalist must always be a critical analyst and communicate honestly to the reader the results of her investigation.

Since most people unconsciously seek opinion fortification rather than truth they become very agitated when they find news which does not fortify their opinion. Thus, most people have low opinions of journalists. Nevertheless, it is no doubt the ideal journalist who presents the facts fairly, accurately and in a balanced manner. The ability ‘to connect the dots’ in each situation is of primary importance for the ideal journalist. Knowledge is important but understanding and critical thinking is more important.

Quotes from John Dewey Habits and Will



#2    Voyager10

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 12:59 PM

coberst on Mar 17 2009, 06:24 AM, said:

What is character?  Character is the network of habits that permeate all the intentional acts of an individual.

I am not using the word habit in the way we often do, as a technical ability existing apart from our wishes.  These habits are an intimate and fundamental part of our selves.  They are representations of our will.  They rule our will, working in a coordinated way they dominate our way of acting.  These habits are the results of repeated, intelligently controlled, actions.  

Habits also control the formation of ideas as well as physical actions.  We cannot perform a correct action or a correct idea without having already formed correct habits.  “Reason pure of all influence from prior habit is a fiction.”  “The medium of habit filters all material that reaches our perception and thought.”  “Immediate, seemingly instinctive, feeling of the direction and end of various lines of behavior is in reality the feeling of habits working below direct consciousness.”  “Habit means special sensitiveness or accessibility to certain classes of stimuli, standing predilections and aversions, rather than bare recurrence of specific acts.  It means will.”


Described in this way, habit seems like intuition?

Quote

Because each job requires a different type of character a journalist would make a lousy military officer and vice versa.  

What might be the ideal character traits of these two professions? It seems that the military officer should be smart, well trained, obedient and brave. The journalist should be smart, well trained, critical and intellectually honest. The journalist must have well-developed intellectual character traits and be skillful in critical thinking. The military officer should be trained to act according to a distinct program in critical circumstances.


I agree for the most part, but I also think it's important to consider what you said in your other post, about non-linear nature of things. Sometimes it's not good to conform to a stereotype. The military has areas of expertise, as does journalism. An officer in Roswell, for example, might have benefited from a better understanding of journalism back in 1947.

Quote

Since most people unconsciously seek opinion fortification rather than truth they become very agitated when they find news which does not fortify their opinion. Thus, most people have low opinions of journalists. Nevertheless, it is no doubt the ideal journalist who presents the facts fairly, accurately and in a balanced manner. The ability ‘to connect the dots’ in each situation is of primary importance for the ideal journalist. Knowledge is important but understanding and critical thinking is more important.


I agree with this, like the old saying, you have break a few eggs to make an omelette.

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#3    coberst

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 06:33 PM

Voyager

You must have a different meaning for intuition than do I.  The habit of fairmindedness is an example of what I mean by habit that becomes character.

To be fair-minded one must be vigilant (consciousness plus intention) of the need to treat all viewpoints alike.  This demands that we adhere to intellectual standards such as accuracy and sound reasoning, which are unaffected by self-interest.

A contrast with fair-mindedness is intellectual self-centeredness.

Fair-mindedness is a challenging task that demands a family of character traits:  intellectual humility, courage, empathy, honesty, perseverance, and a confidence in the value of reason.

Our culture places maximum value not on fair-mindedness but upon self-interest, and maximizing production, and consumption.
  

Intellectual humility begins with the recognition that absolute certainty regarding any matter of fact is beyond human capacity.  There exists no mind-independent reality that we have the capacity to know.  We can know only that which is “colored” by our experiences and historical perspective.

Our common sense views, coupled with philosophical tradition and religious dogma, all teach us that such is not the case, that we can find absolute certainty.  This cultural tradition works aggressively against our goal of intellectual humility thus demanding that we must become more intellectually sophisticated in order to gain the level of intellectual humility required.

Intellectual courage is a difficult assignment.  We all tend to place great value on our own opinion, which is more often than not just something that we grabbed as it flew by.  But this is even more of a problem when we are “wedded” to something that we have a strong commitment to, for what ever reason.  Our political affiliation is one example.

Intellectual courage is especially difficult, and even dangerous to our well being when we hold ideas that society considers them to be dangerous; even though we are confident that they are rationally grounded.  Society often punishes severely all forms of nonconformity; the execution of Socrates by the citizens of Athens might serve as a good example.  

By developing this character trait of intellectual courage we will often be ostracized from a group or even a large community.  Such an experience will give us incentive to recognize that most people live their lives in such a manner as to be secure in the middle of the approval of those about us.

Intellectual courage ain’t for sissies!

Intellectual empathy is a consciousness that one must engage the imagination in an effort to intellectually place your self into the shoes of another so as to comprehend that other person as well as possible. To accomplish this transaction we must try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s situation so as to reconstruct that person’s assumptions, premises, and ideas.

Many of these ideas were gleaned from the book Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life by Richard Paul and Linda Elder





#4    Voyager10

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 08:18 PM

I was using the word intuition to describe habits that are ingrained. What you describe as character is basically what I was thinking of, I was just misapplying the term. So how would you describe intuition? Do you think intuition has roots in things that are learned externally?

What you've said about intellectual humility is interesting to me. In the past I have associated rationality more or less with self-interest, but I have moved away from that notion. Not that I'm grabbing opinions as they fly by original.gif I just have reconsidered what I've previously thought about that correlation.

If it's okay for me to ask, do you feel you have a strong intellectual humility? What is your reaction when you see a thread on UM about claims of the paranormal? Do you find intellectual humility or empathy to be in challenge in those situations?

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#5    coberst

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 01:47 PM

Voyager

I do not often use the word “intuition” because I have never found any discussion of this term by what I consider to be one of the “best minds”.  I often read books about cognition and this term is not used in the books that I have read.  I suspect it may just be a term that has general use but has no technical use.

I consider myself to have a realistic view of my intellectual sophistication.  I have studied CT (Critical Thinking) and am convinced that it is fundamental knowledge that anyone who strives for intellectual sophistication must have.  CT teaches intellectual humility and self-actualizing self-learning leads to humility because one learns every day about how little we comprehend about so many important matters.

I have never given the paranormal any serious consideration.



#6    Mr Walker

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 02:24 PM

TAke on board the thoughts of others but for goodness sake dont take them as gospel. Life is both more complex and yet more simple than a lot of the points and comments you have made/quoted here. It is not that they are wrong. Often they are correct but sometimes they are only situationally correct. At other times they are only part of the answer or not applicable at all.

Learn from life as much as you learn from the lives and recorded thoughts of others. I guess thats easier for an older person to say and do, and as a young man i certainly utilised second, and third, person accounts and opinions to gain knowledge and data.

I was always a little skeptical about the superiority of any one's thoughts or pov however, especially when i found at uni that most of the lecturers  and tutors might have had more experiential and other knowledge than me, but they had no more intellectual capacity, or ability to use their minds to anaylse the information than i had, even as a teenager.

You have to be careful about simply accepting statements like this for instance

Quote

Our culture places maximum value not on fair-mindedness but upon self-interest, and maximizing production, and consumption.


This is a very subjective opinion and it also includes both inherent value judgements and a lack of specificity in its definitions.

eg What exactly is our culture. Our culture is not a bland or universall entity. It encompasses many threads and variations. Thus this is a misleading and somewhat dangerous assumptive beginning.

What sort of value is the author speaking of? Economic, social spiritual, environmental? Different values fit better or less well when placed in the context of this statement.

What does the author define and see as "fair?" Equity of opportunity or equity of outcomes for example? . A sustainable environment or productive  work for all?

What does the author define as self interest. How far is the assumtion that self interest is a bad thing inherent in this statement. if you asume self interest is at least partly a goood quality how does this change the nature/value of this statement?

The author does not define what he/she sees as eitther maximising or production. Again there is an inherent value judgement that this may be a bad thing. Is this a debateable pov? How about in a society where maximising production means producing enough food for all, rather than conspicuous over production to serve a wasteful and  "greedy " society.
He /she does not differentiate between ecessary consumption such as basic food requirements and housing/ clothing and purely "luxury" goods for example. And it does not even begin to consider what a "luxury" good is.
In a societu with no suburban public infrastructure is a second or even third car in a family a luxury or a necessity?

And this is just one brief and incomplete breakdown of one of the many statements made.

My point is that you need to be able to think like this, in order that you can convert into your own understandings what other people have written out of/from the perspectives of, the understandings of their own experiences , thought processes and sapient self awareness/mind.

Edited by Mr Walker, 18 March 2009 - 02:28 PM.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#7    Voyager10

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 09:55 PM

You make some very good points here Mr Walker. I generally have concepts formed in my mind, for example I have a concept of self-interest in my mind and I apply it to the context of something someone else might post, but it is true that the writer may have a different concept of it than the reader does.

However I would ask, wouldn't there have to be some concepts that can be taken prima facie, simply for the purpose of communication? If everyone has a different definition of something, then no one has a definition of it.

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#8    Mr Walker

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 11:12 PM

Voyager10 on Mar 19 2009, 08:25 AM, said:

You make some very good points here Mr Walker. I generally have concepts formed in my mind, for example I have a concept of self-interest in my mind and I apply it to the context of something someone else might post, but it is true that the writer may have a different concept of it than the reader does.

However I would ask, wouldn't there have to be some concepts that can be taken prima facie, simply for the purpose of communication? If everyone has a different definition of something, then no one has a definition of it.



lol Thats life for you This is especially a problem on an international forum. I find people from america have different concepts/understandings from many of the english expresions i use(for example wishful thinking here has no negative connotations. it simly means we tend to think something might be true because we would like it to be true from within our existing world view. Apparently it is seen as an insult by at least some sections of america)

Basically though you are correct. We tend to assume we are talking about the same symbols or concepts when we use the same word. "God" is one of the most contentious. By and large, a society has a general concept of what a god is. However, there may be many widespread variations on this concept /symbol and in the case of individuals, such huge differences that we are not really talking about the same thing at all, even though we are using exctly the same word.
What is a child for example.

The more simple the object being discussed, in general the more commonality of agreement on its symbolism. eg a rock is largely a rock. But try getting agreement on what altruism or altruistic behaviour actually represents, and see what happens.

This is a fascinating subject. I started reading and writing before i was 2 years old, and the complexities and nuances of language have always fascinated me , especially as they pertain to effective communication.

When people lived in a physical clan or village this was a minor problem because there was almost total commonality between a word and its inherent perceived symbolism. In our present global village it is a very real and noticeable hindrance to communication. The best we can do is be aware of it and always try to explain our own concept, while being aware others may be seeing something completely different when they see the same word.

Further examples. What does a trunk, a boot or even a thong first bring to your mind when you see each word.

Not enough context?
Trunk in terms of furniture. Boot in terms of an automobile, and thong in terms of apparel.

As an australian, a trunk is a small box (usually wood but sometimes metal) for storing things, especially clothes.
A boot is the rear storage compartment of an automobile, and a thong is a floppy type of sandal worn on the feet in summer( largely at the beach) to protect the foot  from hot sand and other surfaces,  and yet be easy to remove for swimming.

Edited by Mr Walker, 18 March 2009 - 11:26 PM.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.




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