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incendiary_dan's avatar

Do you examine premises, even/especially your own?

Asked by incendiary_dan (13325 points ) March 20th, 2012

One of the focuses of my pedagogy and personal search for understanding has been to examine the premises that myself and others use to base their arguments and questions on. A perfectly logical point can be made from untrue premises, and will likely come to incorrect conclusions because of that (like excusing empire by asserting that the world is becoming less violent, which we see is patently untrue, or that alternative energy is sustainable and clean).

I’ve come to the understandings I have today by having my preconceived notions smashed, and that’s not easy. It throws off our ideas of ourselves. I think that’s why so many arguments get heated when someone’s premises are challenged; their worldview and sense of self is built around it. Some people react defensively, maybe even violently. I think for full self awareness and good critical thought, our premises and where we get the information to form them is key. Because frankly, it’s way too often that I see supposedly intelligent people saying dumbshit things and treating them as fact when they’re popular culture (like all that caveman stuff I always yell at you about).

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8 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

Man, I first read “premises” as “penises”.

I have got to get out more.

augustlan's avatar

I hope I do. Probably not every single one, though… I’m pretty lazy, so not likely to do all the digging and research required to validate a premise if it’s not important to me. I will concede my premise in favor of someone else’s efforts to prove theirs, if they have demonstrated they are more likely to be right than I am.

For those that are important to me, I want to have a fact-based, logical understanding of whatever the subject is. And if I thought my premise might be causing harm to others, then I’d want to make every attempt to make sure it’s a valid one. No reason to ever cause harm on the basis of a faulty premise.

@Rarebear So do you? Examine penises, especially your own? :p

Blackberry's avatar

Omg, I acidentally hit the back button and when I returned, all that I typed was still there. Thank you, programmers!

Yes. Maybe I’m biased, (:P) but when I examine my own premises, I have the hardest time finding flaws in them. I do find flaws of course, but I find less flaws than the premises of others, for example. But, I am also aware that this is because I am usually debating people whose ideas are polemic to mine.

When I find myself wrong on something, this is when I have to step back and tell myself: “You’re being irrational. You only feel this way because you’re using too much emotion..” or something like that (not that I’m training myself to be cold, fact-driven robot). I’ll believe something, and then that doubt pops up that tells you, “Um, you don’t really believe that…...c’mon dude….”.

I like this self-regulation because I feel it keeps me from living my own head.

Bellatrix's avatar

Sometimes. Not always. I try to be conscious of my own biases. Of course I don’t always succeed and with some things I don’t examine my opinions enough to even really recognise that I am biased. I absolutely do agree that we need to have our assumptions and preconceived ideas challenged. I might not like it when it is happening but I am a rational enough person to see the immense value of this process overall.

Within my work I do regularly share my ideas/understanding with others and on occasions that can lead to wake-up calls when I realise I was off-track with something or hadn’t considered a very different perspective. I find such exchanges really valuable. It gives me a much deeper understanding of the areas I am working in. It is how I learn. However, it has to be said that the people I go to initially are not so dissimilar to me ideologically. So it is always good to get someone outside of my normal sphere to run things by and this may be through quite formal processes. That can at times be daunting and confronting. Often those inputs can be the most valuable though.

With my personal life, if I get into a spat with someone, once I calm down or while calming down and ruminating over what happened and why, I will often a. appraise my own position and b. ask people I know are very grounded for their perspective. Was I being one-eyed or unreasonable? Was I out of order? It helps me to understand myself and to learn from my experiences.

Trillian's avatar

I try to use critical thought and carry things through to their logical conclusions. I am constantly reassessing my ideas about how I view the world. Most recently I have decided to STOP engaging to try and clarify how I see things with those who are stating ideas based on premises that I feel to be groundless. Same goes for those who willfully misinterpret what I’m saying. People who are just looking for conflict are out there in abundance, and can find plenty of it for the sake of itself without me.
Our own hard-wiring makes it difficult to see past the flaws in our reasoning, so I try to maintain awareness of that at all times.
I’m sure that I still fail miserable sometimes, but I hope that at least I have the capacity and maturity to accept and evaluate when it is pointed out to me.

janbb's avatar

I am afraid that with many of my political stances, I tend to not over-examine them since they are consistent with my core beliefs. In terms of my emotional premises, I do try to analyze them because I know I have a tendency to distortion.

tranquilsea's avatar

I do it all the time as new information comes in. In the past I’ve done some complete reversals once I reach a critical mass of information.

flutherother's avatar

I know I am full of inconsistencies as my premises are not well developed. I deal with situations as I find them in terms of a few basic assumptions that haven’t changed much since childhood. I can’t imagine anything more uncomfortable that having those preconceived notions smashed.

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