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How To Think

Alan Jacobs

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Daniel Kahneman's System 1 and System 2 thinking. System 1 is fast, intuitive, providing snap judgements, emotional reactions. System 2 sometimes overrides or corrects System 1 after cs, rational reflection.

Jonathan Haidt describes this as an elephant and its rider. Intuitive thinking is immensely powerful and has a mind of its own, but it can be gently steered by a skilful rider who understands the elephant's inclinations.

Main problem is that thinking is hard - people would much rather not have to think.

When you're listening to something new, you wait until there's something you don't agree with, and you immediately stop thinking and go into Refutation Mode. And the more passionate you are about the topic, the more likely you are to find yourself in RM.

Everyone disparages the Puritans. But the way they crit them is actually very puritanical - rigid, narrow-minded and judgemental.

"Happiness is something you can't aim at directly, ratheryou can onlyachieve it by focusing on other good things."

Impt to remember that all of us believe true things for poor reasons, and false things for good reasons, and whatever we think we know, results from interactions withother people.

Wilt Chamberlain was a great basketballer, but big weakness was free throws. He actually was more successful throwing them underarm, buthe stopped doing it that way bc "it looked girly". Malcolm Gladwell was one of many who said that was irrational, but Jacobs contests that. Gladwell is assuming that the only thing Chamberlain should have been thinking about is his scoring success. Jacobs points out that the thing Chamberlain cared most about was having sex with as many women as possible. So if that is your primary goal in life, you might well avoid any behaviour that might lower your desirability in the eyes of women.

Similar problem when look at politics. Common reaction "What is the matter with these people? Why are they voting against their own best interests?" But assuming that financial interests their only concern.

You are only prepared to listen to ideas from people that you trust (not to harm or manipulate you).

We are very reluctant to see people who disagree with us as equally intelligent, equally decent human beings.

We start with our moral intuitions and then come up with moral arguments post hoc. Our moral intuitions bind and they blind. People bind themselves into moral teams that share particular moral narratives. Once they accept those moral narratives, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.

Seek memebership of a group, but want others to respond to yr ideas with thoughtful answers rather than visceral, emotive ones.

Long history of flame wars: Thomas More attacked Martin Luther "your shitty mouth, truly the shitpool of all shit, all the muck and shit which your damnable rottenness has vomited up" and Luther answered with "dear little ass-pope who licked thedevil's anus" and called all popes "desperate, thorougharch-rascals, murderers, traitors, liars, the very scum of the most evil people on earth. You are full of the worst devils in hell - full, full, and so full that you can do nothing but vomit, throw and fart out devils!"

Description of debate sponsored by the Long Now Foundation. Alice takes her place at podium and outlines her position. The next speaker takes her place, but before he can begin his counter-argument, he must summarize Alice's position to her satisfaction. Then, when he finishes, she must summarize his position to his satisfaction.

It's a twist on the "give it 5 minutes" rule. This time, you can speak right away, but you have to speak someone else's thoughts, and forgo advocating for your own.

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