posted 10-15-2001 10:30 PM PT (US)
Originally posted by someone on another message board:
[qb]I hope [what you posted, Ouro, was] Sarcasm. If not, then you are either truly the most "arrogant *BLEEP*" I have ever met, in my life period[/qb]
I relish the term "arrogant" - I really do.
There are two areas of thought within which everyone seems to regard himself or herself as an expert: politics and philosophy.
If you had two people standing next to each other in an operating room witnessing heart surgery, one a heart surgeon and another just a reporter or someone, and the surgeon performing the operation were to ask each of them, "Where should I begin to cut?", the heart surgeon witness would likely provide an answer, but the reporter would probably respond, "How should I know?" In matters such as heart surgery, people know whether they're an expert or not, and if they're not, they don't regard the heart surgeon next to them to be "arrogant" simply because s/he does proclaim to know where to cut - or even because s/he might lack interest in discussing the issue with first year medical students.
When I was young, I used to argue with anyone about anything. The phrase "Don't try to teach a pig to sing" was one of my greatest pet peeves - I literally hated it and would argue its legitimacy with anyone who used it.
But one day I experienced a paradigmn shift. I was in a class at the university (Philosophy: Informal Logic), and the previous day I'd nearly torn my hair out trying to help a person to understand why "affirming the antecedent" is a valid inference, whereas "affirming the consequent" is not***. It just drove me nuts that this woman couldn't understand something so simple. Anyway, the professor on that day was discussing the validity of "appeals to authority" and he used, as one of the five tests for a valid appeal to authority, the question, "Does the authority seem to have the specific kind of intelligence required for this kind of thought?" He then gave an example of people who just can't do math. He pointed out that you can put 30 people in a class room who all work just as hard as one another, you can teach them all using every teaching method and style available, and there will be some people in the class that "get it", and some people who just plain don't; there are lots of people who just can't do math. When he pointed that out, perhaps because of what I'd gone through the previous day, something in me sort of *snapped*.
On that day, I stopped arguing with just anyone about just anything. Life is just too short for that. I learned that it's important to consider one's audience, and not to just assume that everyone has what it takes to understand every subject there is (including me). There's a second - and very important - part to that common phrase: Dont' try to teach a pig to sing - it wastes your time and it annoys the pig. Regardless of what subject you're speaking on, there are going to be many people who lack the specific kind of intelligence necessary to understand the subject. Further, of the people who do have that specific kind of intelligence, there's going to be an even smaller number of people who have the pre-requisite amount of knowledge necessary to discuss and learn the subject at the level that you're speaking. And further than that, many people are very stuck on their own ideas and are resistant to learning.
And here's what's important: Being able to recognize whether or not the other person has the specific kind of intelligence, or whether s/he has the amount of knowledge necessary to discuss a particular subject is NOT arrogant - no more so than it is arrogant to be able to recognize the difference between an aspen tree and an airplane.
"With greater understanding, one does not become more certain - one becomes certain of more." --Ayn Rand
However - going back to the example of the operating room - if you actually point out to the reporter in the operating room that s/he isn't qualified to have an opinion/judgment on where the surgeon should begin cutting, s/he's likely to say, "You're damned right that I don't!" but, on the other hand, just try saying something like that to a person while on the subjects of philosophy or politics! Chances are that the person, because of his or her ego needs, will probably tell you that you're one "arrogant *BLEEP*"; most people are very sensitive to the opinions of other people, and will become hurt and/or angry if their intelligence, be it base intelligence or their knowledge, is not respected by others. By contrast, people with strong egos are immune to such judgments of other people. I mean, the person levying the judgment is either right, or is wrong; if you're the target of that judgment, the only question is: Is this person correct? Or incorrect? And if s/he is correct, then you simply accept your weakness - without a hurt ego - and move on (since when does maturity involve being intolerant of our own weaknesses?); if s/he is not correct, then you just recognize the error in the person's judgment and you move on. Someone else being wrong is nothing to be offended about; it's no different from a student getting a wrong answer on a math test. Imagine being angry at a kid for making an error in arithmetic!
So, I have no qualms about telling someone that they lack the required pre-requisites to discuss something on my level - and I'm not embarrassed about it (should a person who understands calculus be embarrassed or ashamed to say to a person who doesn't yet understand algebra, "I'm sorry, but you need to understand some pre-requisites before I can show you how to integrate a differential equation"? And if the person responds with, "You won't discuss calculus with me? You are one arrogant *BLEEP*!", then who, pray tell, is really the arrogant one?).
So, in a nutshell - I know that my being referred to as "arrogant" has nothing to do with me - it's just someone else's judgment - and they're entitled to what they think. And, I admit freely that I see the issue of "greed" very very clearly, and I'm completely cognizant of the fact that very few people have devoted the time and mental effort necessary to understand what truly is greed and what is not. And I'm not embarrassed to say so.
And I'm posting this because I wish that everyone shared this attitude. Imagine if no one was ever upset over someone else appearing to "talk down to them", or over someone calling them a name, or any other example of someone sharing, aloud, "their stuff". The discussions on bulletin boards like this one would be a lot more constructive, and there'd be a lot less flaming.
But, I'm not holding my breath.
[***Affirming the antecedent: If A, then B. A is the case, thefore B is the case. (Valid: It's like, #1 If Charlie is a dog, then Charlie has fur. #2 Charlie is a dog, therefore Charlie has fur.) Affirming the consequent: If A, then B. B is the case, therefore A is the case. (Not valid: It's like, #1 If Charlie is a dog, then Charlie has fur. #2 Charlie has fur, therefore Charlie is a dog. Charlie could be a cat.)].