Monday, February 8, 2010

Speck, Meet Log

When does it become acceptable to change your mind? I've been thinking about this recently.

Obviously, there are a great many things a person can change his mind about. No-one would really be concerned if I changed my mind about wanting old cheddar when I had stated previously that I wanted medium cheddar. There would be very little outrage, if any, if I waffled over reading Ayn Rand or Leo Tolstoy, and then finally decided on Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Obviously these are morally neutral scenarios unless imposed upon by contexts I haven't listed here (e.g., avoiding college assignments on Rand and Tolstoy, and opting for a personal interest in Dostoevsky).

Even more so, if I were to change my mind and, say, reject existentialism in favour of solipsism, people might be curious as to why, but I'd wager there wouldn't be an outcry, or a feverish reaction to my decision. At best, I could reasonably guess that people would question my reasons, politely disagree, and we would move on amiably with our lives.

The same affability does not extend, however, to issues concerning family, friends, psychological boundaries, schooling, politics, lifestyle, religion, or even diet. These particular affiliations, dispositions, and alliances seem to balance precariously on most people's breaking points. That is, if I were to change my mind about eating a low fat diet to eating a high fat diet, I would have to endure the criticisms of most of mainstream culture. Suddenly, what I put in my mouth would become many people's moral issue de jour. Were I to balk at libertarianism, I would find myself in the favour of the world's majority; most people believe implicitly that they want to be regulated because that is what is marketted to them. If I were to change my mind, however, and advocate minarchism, or even anarchism, I would then be reprobate and immature (as was recently expressed to me).

Issues of religion, politics, sexual habits, diet, and parenting techniques certainly have the potential to be morally charged topics. However, I can't help but wonder if people shouldn't set aside their personal agendas, their inconsiderate crusading tactics, their implicit need to proselytize without invitation, in order to first listen. People naturally incline towards others who are like them. But when one of us changes minds on an issue, affiliation, or what-have-you, shouldn't the first moral issue that arises be the one that would prompt the need to crusade against the change? That is, shouldn't each of us first take up our own indignations as the first moral issue before moving on to examine the motivations of another's change? Christ summed this up well when he stated,
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."


Edward said...

I did some course work with Jan Narveson:

He almost won me over to libertarianism. He is such a wonderfully liberal fellow, in all the best (i.e. non-lefty) senses of "liberal."

Kane Augustus said...


Mr. Narveson taught my mother when she was at University. I watched him debate William Lane Craig. The late Hugh Hill and I went together to see Mr. Narveson make a fool of himself -- because he came unprepared to debate Craig, and decided to simply wing-it.

In any case, he's a very good philosopher, and I'm very much interested in reading some of his papers.

Edward said...

RE: making a fool of himself in debate. Sounds about right. Narveson is not great with details and seems completely ignorant of theology and/or philosophy of religion. I also hear Craig is a truly great debater, in terms of precision of performance. (I don't agree with him on a lot of things, though. And I think debates of that sort are philosophically ridiculous, in the end.)

Anyway, Narveson is joy to read: very sharp and witty.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to think that people experience a horrified concern over other people's choices that don't really effect them.
Most people are probably actually horrified by the possibility that they could make the same choices; seeing themselves in your choices.

I practice a high fat diet when I can.

Kane said...

"It's nice to think that people experience a horrified concern over other people's choices that don't really effect them."

Isn't it, though? It's also nice to know, by implication, that perhaps these same horrified people might be assuming a more important place in your life than they actually have.

"Most people are probably actually horrified by the possibility that they could make the same choices; seeing themselves in your choices."

Yes, I think Freud had a good deal to say about projections like this.

"I practice a high fat diet when I can."

Me, too. And I usually can.

Craig said...

"Can those who are authentic be anything other than outcasts? It is pretense that unites a culture." ~William Ferraiolo

You do realize that being totally unpretentious has to be a form of pretense. It's still acting in character within an established type. If you want to really mess with people, you should start pushing King James only right after this.

Kane Augustus said...


You're a hoot! Thank you for your sarcastic observation. I haven't had a laugh like that in quite a while.

KJV? 1611 version? Or the 1769 version? How messed up should we make this?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Gabor Mate made the same comments regarding the log in eye analogy. :)
How did you know that I was reading all the 'wrong' books in preference to my psychology text? Now I'm bound to be judged on my choice. Haha.

Craig said...

No no no, King James himself. You should dig him up and start pushing him on people.... okay, not my best joke...