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Are humans "hardwired" to be either idealistic or pragmatic

 
 
Tex-Star
 
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Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2003 05:53 pm
Why would human beings be hard-wired for anything. We probably have positive and negative forces influencing us but none of us are hard-wired for either, meaning we have choice, I'd say. If we choose to feel negative about something the outcome would be different should we be "hard-wired" to think idealistically or pragmatically?.

Perception, this question makes no sense.
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perception
 
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Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2003 08:03 pm
Tex-Star

The term"hard-wiring" is synonymous with the genetic template which each of us is born with. It determines all the molecular structure over which we have no control. For example it determines the mix of amino acids in the brain which in turn determines such things as: your general mental attitude i.e., whether you generally feel happy or depressed. It determines whether you will have a low IQ up to being a genius. So you see "hardwiring" sets the foundation(potential) for who we are-----the environment in which we live( which includes which society we live in) determines the balance of who we are.

BTW----the genetic template doesn't just determine the structure of the brain---it determines the physical structure of your entire body.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2003 08:37 pm
truth
Tex-star, I think Perception's question makes perfectly good sense. The question permits us to focus only on the set: pragmatic-idealistic while acknowledging that each component could be combined with other possibilities to form other sets. We could analyze the question in terms of ratios, e.g. 70% pragmatic/30%idealistic. We could place the dichotomy in different contexts, e.g., political, marriage, professional, etc. And, of course, it raises the old and legitimate issue of Nature Vs. Nurture. I think that the responses of Phoenix and Craven cut to the core best of all.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2003 08:50 pm
Craven de Kere wrote:
I'm talking about reductionism, simplifying life (which is not simple) into two tidy camps. The "either / or" approach.

Simplification should not be overdone. Idealism and pragmaticism are neither mutually exclusive nor the only available options.


The danger of oversimplification is ever present and a reductionist ( I admit to being one) must constantly resist the temptation. How ever the extreme opposite (over analysis) is quite often IMO, a potentially more dangerous situation because it breeds inaction because in the worst case scenario it could cause someone to wait too long to make a decision.

I think it is extremely important to seek a balance so that timely decisions can be made consistently and of course those decisions must be consistently correct. In this process there is an element that is intangible. Good leaders have this indescribable essence because in order to inspire followers a leader must make correct decisions consistently. It can only be described as something akin to "instinct". It is something that you are born with or not. It cannot be taught or learned Most of the mechanics of making good decisions can be learned but the final single element that always selects the right path is not in books. IMO.

Regarding idealism and pragmatism

The following are my definitions of each:

1. An idealist is one who sees the world as he would like it to be.

2. A pragmatist is one who sees the world as it really is.
If one accepts these definitions then they are the ONLY options for governing our thoughts and actions-----they are the prime movers.

IMO these two words will control our actions as we interact with the world. It must be accepted that each of us possesses each of these qualities in vastly varying degrees and the variance depends on each event depending on the desired consequence. For example: for one event I might be described as pragmatic----in the next event I might described as idealistic.

You are correct when you say these are not the only available options----there is ONE more-----a nice balance of the two.
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perception
 
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Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2003 09:01 pm
Hi JL

We passed each other in cyberspace and said much the same thing only you said it more succinctly.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2003 09:10 pm
truth
Craven, "or a nice balance of the two." What about a synthesis of the two? By the way, I want to underscore the fact that ALL thinking including ALL science is simplification, as I'm sure you recognize. Reality is too vast to be intellectually encompassed in its full complexity (and subtlety). It MUST be simplified into problems consisting of models of abstract classes and variables. The problem is, as you say, not to oversimplify, not to simplify more than necessary. I like to say that Occam's razor should be used with appropriate restraint..
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2003 10:12 pm
JL
This is a great reference and one that everyone would do well to memorize. I hope everyone will take note of your underscoring of the fact that ALL thinking including ALL science if simplification.

Occam's Razor

one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything
Occam's razor is a logical principle attributed to the mediaeval philosopher William of Occam (or Ockham). The principle states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. This principle is often called the principle of parsimony. It underlies all scientific modelling and theory building. It admonishes us to choose from a set of otherwise equivalent models of a given phenomenon the simplest one. In any given model, Occam's razor helps us to "shave off" those concepts, variables or constructs that are not really needed to explain the phenomenon. By doing that, developing the model will become much easier, and there is less chance of introducing inconsistencies, ambiguities and redundancies.

Though the principle may seem rather trivial, it is essential for model building because of what is known as the "underdetermination of theories by data". For a given set of observations or data, there is always an infinite number of possible models explaining those same data. This is because a model normally represents an infinite number of possible cases, of which the observed cases are only a finite subset. The non-observed cases are inferred by postulating general rules covering both actual and potential observations.

For example, through two data points in a diagram you can always draw a straight line, and induce that all further observations will lie on that line. However, you could also draw an infinite variety of the most complicated curves passing through those same two points, and these curves would fit the empirical data just as well. Only Occam's razor would in this case guide you in choosing the "straight" (i.e. linear) relation as best candidate model. A similar reasoning can be made for n data points lying in any kind of distribution.

Occam's razor is especially important for universal models such as the ones developed in General Systems Theory, mathematics or philosophy, because there the subject domain is of an unlimited complexity. If one starts with too complicated foundations for a theory that potentially encompasses the universe, the chances of getting any manageable model are very slim indeed. Moreover, the principle is sometimes the only remaining guideline when entering domains of such a high level of abstraction that no concrete tests or observations can decide between rival models. In mathematical modelling of systems, the principle can be made more concrete in the form of the principle of uncertainty maximization: from your data, induce that model which minimizes the number of additional assumptions.

This principle is part of epistemology, and can be motivated by the requirement of maximal simplicity of cognitive models. However, its significance might be extended to metaphysics if it is interpreted as saying that simpler models are more likely to be correct than complex ones, in other words, that "nature" prefers simplicity.

See also, Occam's Razor:

* as part of the scientific method in the sci.skeptic FAQ.
* in the Encyclopedia Britannica
* in the Physics FAQ
* in the Basic Clinical Skills
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Wed 3 Dec, 2003 11:59 pm
truth
Thanks Perception for a precise account of Occam's Razor--and with not too many words.
We must keep in mind that Occam's principle is not a warrant for oversimplificaton. We must wield his Razor with a steady hand.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 12:11 am
are we hardwired to ask this question?
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blatham
 
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Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 12:31 am
phoenix...you descrived yourself as 'libertarian'. By coincidence, I was thinking about libertarianism today, and concluded that it is anarchy-lite.

perc

You can't do that with your definitions. You've told us your definitions, and that's good and honest because they are carved just the way you want 'em.

an idealist... doesn't see reality, just dreams - it's all he can handle

a pragmatist..."bring 'em on"

Now, when you shape your vocabularly in this handy manner, it'll follow logically that everything you say will be right...correct...clear-sighted...because you find yourself in the pragmatic category and they see reality.

Let me give it a try...I'll define them...

an idealist...the best coach you ever had taught you many things but one thing was really important...'try to do it as good as you can bloody do it, wherever you find yourself'. The coach was an idealist.

a pragmatist...the accountant sitting at a big round oak table with a group of lawyers and board executives and they are calulating how much GM will be sued for the faulty tanks that explode burning all the passengers in 9.3% of rear end collisions and will the cost of a recall exceed the projected legal fees and a multi-million dollar legal probability. That accountant, and the others there, are pragmatists.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 02:02 am
I don't like Occam's Razor very much. I could easily simplify the big bang down to God (which requires less entities) on that premise. I prefer to go with what is logical, not necessarily what is simple. In the movie Contact they use it to explain away another phenomenon without logic, as well.

Also, depending on how you define "see" and "the way the world truly is" either everyone sees it the way it is or no one does. (Remember this discussion?) So your definitions don't really stand. I realize they're based on idioms, but they're very imprecise idioms.

And, pffft, libertarianism has nothing to do with anarchy. That's like saying that republicanism is like facism because it leans more in that direction than does socialism.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 06:08 am
Quote:
And, pffft, libertarianism has nothing to do with anarchy. That's like saying that republicanism is like facism because it leans more in that direction than does socialism


Agree. In anarchy, anybody can do what they please with no ramifications. In my small "l" brand of libertarianism, government would be there to maintain the peace, and to restrain those who would disrupt it.

I think that equating libertarianism with anarchy is setting up a straw man whose intent is to turn people off from the concept from the getgo, without investigating as to what it is really about.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 06:42 am
When it comes to 'idealism' and 'pragmatism', no I do not think we are genetically inclined to either, at least not in a way that is measurable or important. Given that we are all capable of both as human beings, and utilize one or the other depending on the situation, I would chalk it up to learned experience. How we feel about acting one way or the other is a different question entirely.
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patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 07:45 am
So the real question is, "Are people hardwired to be either a Republican or a Democrat?" The answer to this depends, of course, on how much they absorb and believe American television. Most of the world is inclined to arrange itself in a more politically complex matter. If you were an Italian, would an examination of political discourse incline you to believe that we have dualistic natures?

Quote:
I don't like Occam's Razor very much. I could easily simplify the big bang down to God (which requires less entities) on that premise.


Not really. The razor only needs to be used when to models adequately explain observed phenomena. If the God answer did this, we'd never have started on physics to begin with. Planetary orbits were adequately explained by the earth-centric model of the solar system, but the equations were hideously complex. The heliocentric model just made so much more sense. "God did it" doesn't really simplify or explain anything; it just precludes asking more questions.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 08:18 am
blatham wrote:


perc

You can't do that with your definitions. You've told us your definitions, and that's good and honest because they are carved just the way you want 'em.

an idealist... doesn't see reality, just dreams - it's all he can handle

a pragmatist..."bring 'em on"

Now, when you shape your vocabularly in this handy manner, it'll follow logically that everything you say will be right...correct...clear-sighted...because you find yourself in the pragmatic category and they see reality.

Let me give it a try...I'll define them...

an idealist...the best coach you ever had taught you many things but one thing was really important...'try to do it as good as you can bloody do it, wherever you find yourself'. The coach was an idealist.

a pragmatist...the accountant sitting at a big round oak table with a group of lawyers and board executives and they are calulating how much GM will be sued for the faulty tanks that explode burning all the passengers in 9.3% of rear end collisions and will the cost of a recall exceed the projected legal fees and a multi-million dollar legal probability. That accountant, and the others there, are pragmatists.


Blatham

I love your anecdotal colorations and I didn't think for one minute that you or anyone else would accept my "definitions". Laughing

Craven was correct about me----I do like nice tidy packages if at all possible. It is this desire that compelled me to ask the question that is the subject of this thread. As you have already realized I equate idealism with liberal thought and pragmatism with conservative thought therefore my interest in finding a "tidy" package to explain the current polarization between the two camps. As with any philosophical exploration there is no tidy answer---only more questions. The comments have been interesting and I hope there will be more.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 08:31 am
cavfancier wrote:
When it comes to 'idealism' and 'pragmatism', no I do not think we are genetically inclined to either, at least not in a way that is measurable or important. Given that we are all capable of both as human beings, and utilize one or the other depending on the situation, I would chalk it up to learned experience. How we feel about acting one way or the other is a different question entirely.


Cav---I suspect you are correct----I certainly can't refute what you say but I must ask you a question. What about the "instinct" involved in the tactic of "fight or flight". The one who was able to make a decision rapidly had a better chance of survival than the one who "analysed the complexities" for an instant too long. The former is the pragmatist and the latter is the idealist.
That may explain why there weren't many idealists in the olden days. Laughing

BTW----In today's world the idealists are gaining rapidly because there was no real threat to them-----I would posit that 9/II changed all that. The terrorist will probably target the idealist first because the idealist probably won't fight back----he will try to negotiate.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 08:39 am
I would say that the 'fight or flight' instinct is hard-wired. How we deal with that instinct, to me, is environmental, and based on our experience.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 10:23 am
perc

Have to run...but I think I like your post above more than anything else I've seen you write. Socrates famously said..."All I know is that I don't know."
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 10:28 am
Quote:
I would say that the 'fight or flight' instinct is hard-wired.


Cav- If flight or fight were a hard-wired instinct, it would be one or the other. There would be no choice.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2003 10:38 am
That's getting semantic there, Phoenix. Let's put it another way: survival instinct. That is pretty much accepted as 'hard-wired'. I may not always agree with perception's politics, but in a life or death situation, it's me or them, plain and simple. Part of the 'fight or flight' instinct in humans involves the choice of analyzing the situation and choosing which avenue is best to keep you alive, quickly (quick descending from the anglo-saxon word for 'alive'). I do believe both are hard-wired into all living species. How good you are at making the right decision just comes down to who is 'fittest', to borrow from our friend Darwin.
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