‘And what is this play about?’

A shorter, funnier version of everything I tried to say in the previous post can by found in Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s script for Shakespeare in Love:

WOMAN (to RALPH): And what is this play about?

RALPH: Well, there’s this nurse. …

The play Ralph is describing is Romeo and Juliet.

Now, if Ralph were writing a paper for his literature class on the meaning of Romeo and Juliet, he’d likely get an “F” for this approach. Similarly, no editor would accept a review of the play from a critic who argued that the whole thing was really about the nurse. And if you met some member of the audience coming out of the theater who told you, “Well, it’s about this nurse …” you would think they hadn’t been paying any attention at all.

But Ralph isn’t writing an abstract paper for a class. And he isn’t a critic reviewing the play, or a spectator in the audience.

Ralph is an actor — a member of the cast.

And, more importantly, Ralph is the actor playing the Nurse.

And if you are the actor playing the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, then that is the correct response to the question, “What is this play about?” It’s about this nurse.

That’s not the whole answer, or the only answer, or the best answer, or the most comprehensive answer. It is certainly the wrong answer for the student, for the teacher, for the critic, for the audience, for the playwright, for the director, for the publicist and for the rest of the cast.

But it is a necessary answer for the actor whose role it is to be the nurse.

If you’ve never had to play the nurse — or the butler, or the sidekick, or Fortinbras, or Third Woman in Crowd — then you might not understand Ralph’s answer to the question Does the Universe Have a Purpose? “What is this play about?” You might think he’s a raging egomaniac with no sense of perspective or proportion — an illiterate fool who doesn’t understand the first thing about Romeo and Juliet.

But he understands all of that, and he understands his part in the bigger picture. “There’s this nurse …” is an expression of humility, not ego. It’s a recognition that I’m not the playwright, or the director, or even one of the leads, but I have a role to play and I’m going to play it with everything I’ve got.

But still and again, this is a choice, not a conclusion based on evidence.

“There are no small parts,” someone said, “just small actors.” That’s a statement of faith — an aspirational pledge and not anything that any reasonable person could reasonably affirm based on an objective survey of scripts and screenplays through the ages. But it’s still good advice.

 

  • Kevinq2000

    In the audio commentary to Firefly, Joss Whedon says he told Adam Baldwin, “Jayne thinks that he’s the hero of this story.” I think that’s what made him my favorite character to watch in the show. He wasn’t noble, and he wasn’t the hero, except to himself, and it showed in everything he did.

    K

  • Becca Stareyes

    Though, is there much argument that humans tend to develop their own purposes and see themselves as the heros of their stories*?  It’s a broader argument to say that because humans create purposes, that the universe itself has (man, subjective and often conflicting) purposes, because humans are part of the universe.  And it feels like a lot of times when people ask that question, they want your opinion on if the universe has a singular, objective purpose.  

    (I guess if you believe some of the more speculative and esoteric theories out there, a universe is a singularity’s way of making more singularities, to riff on Richard Dawkins (I think) and the rest of us are along for the ride (and what a ride it is!).) * Maybe, given that some theists use ‘atheism’ = ‘nihilism’ as an argument.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Absolutely. What Romeo and Juliet is about, to the Nurse, is the Nurse. (It’s also
    about Juliet, because Juliet is important to the Nurse, but not in the
    same way that it’s about Juliet to Juliet, which is not the same way
    that it’s about Juliet to Romeo.)

    I have often described Disney’s Pocahontas as being about this raccoon who discovers biscuits.

    It’s a thing I often tell actors when I’m directing: your character perceives everything that happens in terms of how it affects the things your character values. When the action isn’t about those things, the action stops being important, and you need to figure out what the most important thing in the room is and attend to that.

    And, yes, the choice to approach a role this way — whether it’s theatrical or a role in our own lives –  is a matter of faith.

    But there’s also relevant evidence. I mean, when I give actors that direction, I do it because it seems to results in better performances. If I started noticing that it led to worse performances, I’d stop giving it as direction.

    Evidence is relevant to a wider range of contexts than I think you’re giving it credit for.

  • Carstonio

     

    your character perceives everything that happens in terms of how it affects the things your character values.

    The analogy would likely be useful for contemplating one’s own life, but not so much for contemplating the universe. One of the most important lessons that one can learn is that the world and the universe aren’t about one’s self. This means attempting to supersede or overcome the tendency to perceive events in terms of how these affect the things one values. Like a good journalist, this would be recognizing the natural tendency to hold opinions while attempting to prevent these from becoming biases.

  • Ben English

    But what evidence can we possibly admit in a court determining if the universe has a purpose? The seeming randomness of everything in the universe doesn’t necessarily preclude an intent or an Intender as randomness may well be part of the intent, just as much as the laws of physics may be false guideposts suggesting an intelligence that isn’t there, as I’m sure Stephen Hawking would argue.

    Or to bring it all down to a terrestrial metaphor, randomness in the form of dice is baked into the form and function of tabletop games. The size, number, and applications of those dice set boundaries for the randomness just as the laws of physics set boundaries on the randomness of the universe.

    Unfortunately, the universe we live in doesn’t have a preface with a handy statement of intent–or at least, if it does, science hasn’t found it yet. Until evidence leads us to conclude otherwise, then faith and philosophy will remain our guides.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Also, if we humans didn’t exist – that is, if there was no form of life on this planet capable of the level of self-awareness needed to question its own existence, then the question of “purpose” ceases to have meaning.

    Asking our purpose in the universe is, I think, self-referential in that respect. That is, the question presupposes that one offshoot of the primates millions of years ago was in some way necessary to any larger “scheme of things”.

  • Gotchaye

     This is why I don’t really get Fred’s post.  Not all characters /should/ think of themselves as the heroes of the story.  This is a perceptible thing to an audience; it certainly comes across pretty clearly with Jayne.  It’s probably useful for an actor playing a nurse to be mindful of what Dave’s saying above, but it seems bizarre for the actor to think that Romeo and Juliet is /about/ the nurse.  Saying that the nurse and the nurse’s concerns are important to the nurse is just plain different than saying that the nurse and the nurse’s concerns are important to the play.  I know basically nothing here, but to me Dave’s instruction sounds like telling actors what to do when their characters /aren’t/ what the play is about.  I was pretty sure that the line in Shakespeare in Love was a joke about self-important actors.  Have I been wrong about this for all these years?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    One of the most important lessons that one can learn is that the world and the universe aren’t about one’s self.

    What makes that lesson more important than any other?

    I mean,  it’s important to me because (as you suggest) keeping it firmly in mind leads me to avoid certain kinds of cognitive biases, which is important to me because I’m more effective in implementing my values if I avoid succumbing to those values.

    And I’m perfectly happy to say it’s an important lesson because it’s an important lesson to me, and important (like purpose) is a two-place predicate whose object is frequently elided in English.

    But if you want to argue that there’s some kind of importance that transcends my perspective and my values, then presumably you can’t rely on that sort of reasoning to establish what is and isn’t important.

    So how do you conclude that lesson is unusually important?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    if there was no form of life on this planet capable of the level of
    self-awareness needed to question its own existence, then the question
    of “purpose” ceases to have meaning.

    I’m inclined to disagree. I would say that any system capable of setting goals and being aware of how environmental conditions relate to the achieving of those goals creates purposes, even bacteria.

    Self-awareness and self-reference are just special cases of that, which create particular kinds of purposes.

  • Mcjunker

    Reminds me of a hamlet joke.

    A guy gets a small but memorable part in hamlet, as the grave digger.

    His mom, who never read shakespeare, says, “Ooh, how wonderful! What’s the play about?”

    The guy says, “It’s so cool. It’s about this gravedigger who gets to swap puns with the prince of Denmark!”

    In regards to the joke it Shakespeare in Love, it may also be in reference to the fact that in Shakespeare’s day actors literally didn’t get issued the whole script, just the parts that have their character. As far as Ralph knew, it was a play about a nurse helping young girlt through her first romance.

  • depizan

    This does not actually help those of us who do not understand the question: “Does the Universe/life/our life have purpose?”  Unless the answer is supposed to be “No freaking clue/no freaking clue/my purpose is to be…me? Whut.  What does that even mean?”

    But maybe that’s not who this explanation is for?

  • Albanaeon

    Well, there’s a whole section of this blog devoted to a story where the entire story is one where every other character knows that they are peripheral in regards to the Marty Sues of the author and their theology…

    So,  I think the there’s a big load of truth to that throw away joke.  If your characters aren’t people, that have their own motivations, you get Left Behind…

  • Victor

    (((Now, if Ralph were writing a paper for his literature class on the meaning of Romeo and Juliet, he’d likely get an “F” for this approach. Similarly, no editor would accept a review of the play from a critic who argued that the whole thing was really about the nurse. And if you met some member of the audience coming out of the theater who told you, “Well, it’s about this nurse …” you would think they hadn’t been paying any attention at all.)))

    Kind of like if someone wrote a paper for a Catholic religion class saying that same-sex-marriages is perfectly OK in today’s Christian society and if ya don’t believe me just ask the nurse from  Romeo and Juliet.

    Just wondering Fred! Wouldn’t that be kind of funny if Ralph  continued to argue that this nurse  Romeo and Juliet was really about Romeo and Romeo and then got an “F” for “IT” NOW! What kind of an out cry would there be  from all the “ONEs” who believed Ralph? :)

    Peace

  • arcseconds

    Also,
    if we humans didn’t exist – that is, if there was no form of life on
    this planet capable of the level of self-awareness needed to question
    its own existence, then the question of “purpose” ceases to have
    meaning.

    Asking our purpose in the universe is, I think, self-referential in
    that respect. That is, the question presupposes that one offshoot of the
    primates millions of years ago was in some way necessary to any larger
    “scheme of things”.

    I’m a bit confused about what you’re trying to say here. The “if there was no form of life on this planet capable…” phrase implies that the exact biological species might not be too terribly important.   There could be non-Homo species capable of questioning their own existence, and then the question of “purpose” would have meaning still, without us (us as in Homo sapiens, but not ‘without us’ if ‘us’ means ‘me and my fellow creatures capable of questioning their on existence).

    (although the restriction to “this planet” makes it sound as though the location was important – was that intentional?) But your last paragraph suggests that by asking the question, we’re assuming there’s something special about our particular biological species. That doesn’t seem to follow from your initial assertion, which seems correct as far as it goes (if we drop the restriction to Earth). 

      At most, we’re assuming there’s something special about being able to ask the question, which doesn’t presuppose there’s anything necessary about primates.   It might be necessary, for example,  that someone be able to ask the question, but the exact biological species be quite unimportant. 

    We happen to fulfill this requirement, but so might intelligent dinosaurs, sentient oceans, and complex arrays of cellular automata.

    I’m also wondering how important your initial claim really is.  Don’t all questions become meaningless if there’s no-one around to ask them, and no-one to understand an answer?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    But what evidence can we possibly admit in a court determining if the universe has a purpose? 

    Beats me. Though perhaps if you could clarify what court would have standing to determine this, it would be clearer.

    The seeming randomness of everything in the universe doesn’t necessarily preclude an intent or an Intender

    Clearly not. I, for example, have intents, and am an intender. I suspect you are as well. The seeming randomness of everything in the universe (for some values of “randomness”) doesn’t preclude that.

    What seems implicit in your statements here is that our intents aren’t what you’re talking about… that for the universe to have a purpose, we need some other kind of intents. This is presumably in the same sense that just because I’m using a hammer to pound veal, that doesn’t mean that the purpose of a hammer is to pound veal.

    For my own part, though, I think our intents are perfectly good intents to judge a universe’s purpose against, and pounding veal is a perfectly good purpose for a hammer.

  • Random_Lurker

    All the world is a stage, indeed.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    The purpose of the universe is to be the place where stuff happens (and where I keep my stuff) from the perspective of someone living in it anyway.

    This is kind of like some wood dwelling beetle thinking (insofar as beetles think) trees exist to feed and shelter it – both true (that is the purpose to the beetle) and not (the tree would exist anyway without the beetles) and if the tree is a crop tree the planter might see the beetles as an infestation to be eradicated since their purpose for the tree and the beetles are at loggerheads. The tree in the meantime thinks its purpose is to pass on its DNA.

    Whether or not the universe has a creator it has a purpose now. It’s a place where stuff is and happens. Does it have a creator? I believe so (though I don’t believe he’s going to fumigate the universe for life infestation fortunately) other people don’t.

  • olsonam

     You seem to be an advocate for free choice.  The other side of that is predestination, where we don’t have intents but the choices are made because of things beyond our control.  For instance, last year I made the “choice” to have a child.  Was it really a choice or did survival instinct and other pressures lead me to make a choice I wouldn’t have made otherwise.  And I couldn’t intend to be a father or a mother – I have  no choice over my sex and therefore my role in the pregnancy and my role is further being defined by the society I was born in.

    I know much of this isn’t directly answering what you wrote but I’m trying to give background to my answer: I don’t think I should be judged by intents because there is so much feeding into my choices that is outside of my control. I don’t think predestination is the answer though.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, you can’t control what reproductive equipment is your factory default, nor your hormones, nor the pressures imposed by your society. (Well, you could move to a society with different pressures, if you could find one which I don’t know if you could, but the internalized pressures you acquired over your whole life prior to the move would still be outside your control.)

    You CAN choose what you DO about those.

    People use contraception of various levels of permanence all the time, and abortion when necessary and available, and while abstinence isn’t nearly good enough a contraceptive method overall it does have its instances of success. People, that is, are constantly deciding that they are not going to have a child, or not in the near future. And other people, of course, are constantly deciding that they are going to have a child, whether in the distant or the as-immediate-as-feasible future. A lot of those people, on all sides of the question, have pretty much the same reproductive equipment and hormonal balance and societally-imposed pressures as you do.

    Choice is possible. You made yours.

  • olsonam

    This made me think of how we used to think Earth was the physical center of the universe.  Now we think that we’re the spiritual center.  On a spiritual level some Christians seem to still work from the actor’s point of view. Maybe we need to find some aliens so we can evolve past that? I guess that means I’m taking the “It’s a play about a nurse” comment a little differently from Fred but I can still see the value in stripping away the other viewpoints and focusing on my own Good Works and working on my own salvation with fear and trembling (for it is God who works in me).

  • Carstonio

    I see the lesson “the world isn’t about one’s self” as among the most important lessons, but not the top one. It’s important because depending on one’s culture and upbringing, there may be a tendency toward that self-centeredness that reduces others to animated wallpaper.

  • Carstonio

     What you describe is a subjective purpose, one that would cease to exist if that beetle species ceased to exist. I’m reluctant to use the P word for anything but an objective or inherent purpose.

  • http://twitter.com/WayofCats WayofCats

    Where we go wrong is thinking from the wrong perspective. What if the Universe is shaped like a Moebius strip? Can we decide it has a center?

    Likewise, if we have an immortal soul (and I think we do) our purpose becomes far more spread out than this lifetime. The tree, in this case, has our nose pressed against it.

  • Guest

    Ask Shakespeare what it was about, and he’d say it was about making more money than the last play they put on.

  • Michael Pullmann

    Now I’m remembering the college production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream I was in, where I played Peter Quince as a more erudite (although no more competent) Ralph Kramden. I don’t know if I would have described the play as being “about this carpenter”, but I would have described the plot in terms of his place in it.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     (nods) Yup, avoiding objectifying others is something I endorse as well.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    If you want to frame the question in terms of predestination and free will, I’m a compatibilist. That is, I think the “free will vs. predestination” question is an illusory conflict, born of failing to understand the options properly.

    More precisely, I would say that when we talk about freedom (as in “free choice” and “free will”) what we’re talking about is the absence of impediments to implementing choices, and it is possible to have that freedom to greater and lesser degrees, and all else being equal it’s possible (and a good idea) to hold people accountable for the choices they implement. So, yes, we have (to varying degrees) free will.

    But evidence also suggests that my choices themselves, like everything else in the universe, are an expression of physical law acting consistently on the state of the universe in the previous moment, in a way that is either predeterminable or random but in neither case something I can control in this moment. Where people get confused is when they draw conclusions about freedom and accountability from that fact. 

    For example, I would say that if you tie me to a post while something bad happens, I ought not be held accountable for the bad thing, because I did not have the freedom to implement my choices about it. But if you untie me and I choose to allow the bad thing to happen anyway, then I ought to be held accountable for that choice. The fact that my choice was itself constrained by my biochemistry, etc., is beside the point.

  • aproustian

     What’s interesting is that from the physics point of view, regardless of its shape, the universe has no center (even though it began at a single point, that single point’s expansion was what created the universe). From every point of view in the universe, the universe is expanding away from you.

    I think there’s an analogy there relevant to the discussion at hand, but I’m too brain dead now to tease it out.

  • stardreamer42

     Look at the society around us right now and you can see the results of people not having learned that lesson.

    Or perhaps that’s more meta than you were going for?

  • stardreamer42

    There is a fair amount of science-fiction literary speculation about what effect(s) making First Contact would have on human religion. The most common reaction seems to be that it would lead to the ultimate Crisis Of Faith; OTOH, there are also stories in which there are still human missionary groups trying to bring the Good News to the rest of the galaxy, with varying levels of success.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Personally, I would expect First Contact to trigger a significant increase in people’s overtly religious identification. But then, crises of faith often have that result, although we more often hear about the reverse.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    It’s significantly less meta than I was going for, actually.

    I mean, I agree with you, but what I was asking Carstonio is how they decide  something is important, if (as they seemed to be asserting) it being important to them isn’t sufficient.

  • Carstonio

    My point was that value and importance are concepts that, as far as we know, depend on sentient minds and interactions between sentient beings to exist. That would mean that all assertions for either concept are subjective. Even if the vast majority of people agree that something is important, that’s still a subjective declaration of value.

    I admit I don’t understand your question about how people decide something is important beyond their own opinion or perspective. That reminds me too much of the creationist assertion that life has no meaning if creator gods don’t exist, although I doubt that’s your intention.

  • olsonam

     I was thinking of an essay CS Lewis wrote, of course working from the idea that God does exist and therefore there’s no need for a crisis of faith.  It isn’t quite sci-fi but he muses about what aliens could mean to Christianity. One idea is that God is probably doing his best to reach the aliens as well so they could have similar religions that they feel are necessary to share with us. Another option is that the human Christ is the only Christ and the absence of Christ-like figures on other planets is because our Christ is saving the whole universe.  There was more but I can’t remember. Sci-fi stories are always great for expanding on one idea but the essay was nice because he crammed as many ideas as possible into a few pages.

  • olsonam

     Sounds good! In your original post, I was making assumptions on what you meant based on the generally conceived ideas of free will v. predestination but I agree that it’s more complicated than that.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I don’t understand your question about how people decide something is important beyond their own opinion or perspective.

    Well, I had started out talking about approaching life in terms of the things we value, and you replied that this wasn’t a useful way to contemplate the universe. You asserted:

    One of the most important lessons that one can learn is that the world and the universe aren’t about one’s self. This means attempting to supersede or overcome the tendency to perceive events in terms of how these affect the things one values.

    So, OK. If we’re not justified in considering important what we happen to value (say, justice, or peaceful coexistence, or happiness, or pleasure, or cheese, or obedience to God’s Word, or combinations, or whatever else we happen to value), then there seem to be only two possibilities left: either we’re not justified in considering anything important, or importance is properly justified in terms of something else. (Is there another option I’m missing?)

    And you clearly don’t believe the former, because you’re comfortable describing something as “one of the most important lessons one can learn.”

    Which leaves the second option: importance is properly justified in terms of something else. Your other comments elsewhere about wanting “purpose” to refer to something objective that doesn’t depend on individual minds is consistent with that. So I’m asking you: what do you determine importance in terms of, if not in terms of the things you value? What’s important, and how do you know?

    That reminds me too much of the creationist assertion that life has no meaning if creator gods don’t exist, although I doubt that’s your intention.

    I don’t believe that, though I can understand why you’re reminded of it.

    For my own part, as I’ve said repeatedly, I’m perfectly content evaluating importance (and meaning) in terms of what I value.

  • Carstonio

    I should have clarified that I was offering personal opinion when I talked about the lesson. 

    If we’re not justified in considering important what we happen to value

    Not sure how or why you interpreted my post that way. I’m saying that to the best of our knowledge, what we consider important doesn’t matter to the universe. What we value about the universe is not the same as the universe itself, which is not objectively defined by our values. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Sure, I agree that what we value about the universe is not the same as the universe itself, and that the universe itself is not defined (objectively or otherwise) by our values. If I implied otherwise I apologize for the confusion.

    (I would also agree that what we consider important doesn’t matter to the universe, as long as that’s not taken to mean that something else does. Describing the universe as the sort of thing to which anything matters is not a way of talking that makes any sense to me.)

    And it sounds like you agree that considering important what we happen to value is legitimate, which wasn’t the impression I’d gotten initially. Thanks for the clarification.

    So, OK, rolling back a bit and taking it slower… I started out talking about the usefulness of approaching events in terms of the things
    we value, and you replied that it was important to overcome the tendency to perceive events in terms of how they affect the things we value.

    Have I understood you so far?

    It does seem to me that we disagree here, though it seems clear that I earlier misunderstood what that disagreement was.

    So, OK. Trying again, more carefully.

    Once I overcome that tendency, does that mean I no longer perceive events in terms of how they affect the things I value? If so, is that an improvement? If not… well, what does it mean to overcome that tendency?

  • Carstonio

    I don’t know if the tendency can be overcome so much as recognized and taken into account. The reality of the universes is far larger than what we value individually or collectively.

    An analogy – someone under age 30 might know Rod Stewart only from his standards albums, whereas I encountered him first in “Hot Legs” and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.” And someone a decade older than me would probably remember Stewart best from his Faces days and early solo stuff like “Maggie May.” None of the three would have a complete picture of his career, because different songs mean different things to people based on their life experiences at the time. Our subjective experience of his music is not the same as the performer himself.

  • The_L1985

     You had to mention “Maggie May.”  If I never hear that song again…

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I see.

    OK, so on your account the tendency to approach the universe in terms of what we value cannot be overcome, though it is important to (as you say) attempt to overcome it. And this is important because the universe contains more than just what we value in it, much as Rod Stewart’s career contains more than just what we’ve experienced in it.

    Yes?

    OK.

    I certainly agree that the universe contains more than we value, both individually and collectively. (Ditto Rod Stewart’s career.)

    I don’t see how it follows from that that evaluating the universe in terms of what we value is something we should attempt to overcome.

    Can you expand on the connection?

  • Carstonio

    Sorry, I forgot to follow through with my analogy. What we regard as important can limit our perceptions, blinding us to what actually exists.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    So, if I’ve understood you correctly, you’re suggesting that the tendency to approach the universe in terms of what we value increases the chance that we’ll fail to attend to things that actually exist which we don’t value, and therefore we should attempt to overcome that tendency, because… ?

    “Because we ought to attend to everything that exists, whether we value it or not” is the only way I can think of to end that thought that makes any sense, but I’m not sure it’s what you have in mind.

  • Carstonio

     No, we might fail to attend to things that pose a danger to us or others. How many parents of murderers ignored the warning signs because they didn’t want to believe their children would be capable of that crime? Or climate change denial. Some deniers may simply want to avoid changing their lifestyles, and some seem desperately wedded to a particular theology that treats a god as Superman saving the day.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I… am confused.

    If it’s important to me that my children not commit murder, then I absolutely ought to attend to warning signs that they are murderers. And I ought to do that because their status as murderers or non-murderers is important to me, not despite it.

    Similarly, if it’s important to me whether the Earth’s climate is changing, then I ought to attend to evidence for and against climate change. Which means, for example, that if I have a choice between reading about climate change, and reading about shoes, I ought to read about climate change, because it’s important to me and shoes are not.

    This is precisely what I mean when I talk about approaching the world in terms of what is important to me, what I value. Climate change is more important to me than shoes, so I attend to facts about climate change more than facts about shoes.

    And, yes, that means that the universe is full of many more things (like shoes) than I attend to. Which I’m OK with.

    You seem to understand me in a different way, where if the Earth’s climate is important to me and I approach the universe in terms of what is important to me, I’m therefore somehow less likely to attend to facts about the Earth’s climate.

    Did I understand that properly?

    If so, well, OK. I don’t get how that’s true, but I agree that if that were true, then a superior alternative would be to attend equally to everything.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think Carstonio’s point is that, because it is important to you that your child not be a murderer, you would ignore or excuse away evidence that suggests they are a murderer. Probably without any idea that you’re doing it until they do something that you can’t ignore or excuse away, by which point it is of course too late to do anything but bemoan the fact that you had all this evidence but didn’t realize it or put it together. It’s a natural human tendency to believe evidence that suggests things are the way you want and ignore evidence that suggests otherwise.

  • Carstonio

     Thanks to Ellie for helping to explain my point. The base principle is that what we want, and what is, are two different things.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Fair enough. I agree that ignoring evidence in favor of propositions
    that matter to me is something humans do, and leads to bad results. And I agree that what we want, and what is, are two different things.


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