Single events have multiple causes + Beyond anger + Forgetting humility

#1
We must recognise that single events have multiple causes
https://aeon.co/ideas/we-must-recognise-...ple-causes

EXCERPT: [...] The notion of multiple causes finds a varied expression in the history of philosophy. In A System of Logic (1843), John Stuart Mill despairs at the impossibility of picking out a single ‘cause’ from the background ‘conditions’ of an event. Here we might imagine a ball flying through a pane of glass. What was the cause of the breakage? Perhaps the thrower? Perhaps the ball? Perhaps the vulnerability of the glass? Perhaps the effect of gravity? Each of these counts as a condition, but picking out any particular condition as the cause seems arbitrary.

In his essay ‘On the Notion of Cause’ (1912-1913), Bertrand Russell likewise notes that progress in science consists in recognising ‘a continually wider circle of antecedents’ as necessary for the precise calculation of any event. For Russell, however, the scientific pursuit of exactitude soon bottoms out in the ‘mature’ science of physics, according to which differential equations specify the changes in position and velocity of fundamental particles, and ‘causes’ play no role at all.

But to backtrack from Russell’s conclusion, it has to be pointed out that in every other area of science – from biology, to psychology, to sociology – causal enquiry remains alive and well. No one ever stopped looking for the causes of cancer, or the First World War, because of particle physics. To my mind, this rupture between physics and all the rest is best explained by ‘agency’ theories of causation, according to which human beings define causes in terms of ‘handles’ for manipulating events. From the perspective of the physicists’ block universe, in which all human activity lies spread out at once, there can be no such handles for change. From our perspective, however, the notion of causality continues to flourish as we push and pull and prod at the world in search of regularities to exploit.

The agency theory of causation also provides a neat solution to Mill’s dilemma; what separates ‘causes’ from mere ‘conditions’ is our ability to control them. To return to the ball flying through the pane of glass, it is easy to see that some of its conditions are more susceptible to human influence than others. [...]

The recognition of multiple causal handles – of a choice about where we place the source of our problems – has the pleasing upshot of pouring cold water on the single-factor fundamentalists who dominate political discourse. What was the cause of the 2008 financial crash? Reckless deregulation! say the socialists. Reckless overregulation! say the libertarians. What is the cause of any given strain on public services? Lack of government spending! says the left. Immigration! says the right. And so forth.

Taking a step back from such controversies, it should be obvious that complex social phenomena always have multiple causes, and we should be suspicious of anyone who claims otherwise. I am not, however, promoting fence-sitting – nothing of the sort. In fact, I believe the change in perspective that renders causes in terms of handles offers up two practical heuristics for navigating causal disputes. First, when it is apparent that there exists a choice of causal handles, advocates of a particular handle must go beyond merely demonstrating that it exists. They will be forced to say why their handle is fairer, or otherwise more desirable, to lean upon. And second, advocates of a particular causal handle will be forced to speak of practicalities. If a cause isn’t tractable, then it is not strictly speaking a cause at all...



Beyond anger
https://aeon.co/essays/there-s-no-emotio...than-anger

EXCERPT: Anger is the emotion that has come to saturate our politics and culture. Philosophy can help us out of this dark vortex...



Overvaluing confidence, we’ve forgotten the power of humility
https://aeon.co/ideas/overvaluing-confid...f-humility

EXCERPT: [...] The internet and digital media have created the impression of limitless knowledge at our fingertips. But, by making us lazy, they have opened up a space that ignorance can fill. On the Edge website, the psychologist Tania Lombrozo of the University of California explained how technology enhances our illusions of wisdom. She argues that the way we access information about an issue is critical to our understanding – and the more easily we can recall an image, word or statement, the more likely we’ll think we’ve successfully learned it, and so refrain from effortful cognitive processing. Logical puzzles presented in an unfriendly font, for example, can encourage someone to make extra effort to solve them. Yet this approach runs counter to the sleek designs of the apps and sites that populate our screens, where our brain processes information in a deceptively ‘smooth’ way.

What about all the commenting and conversations that happen online? Well, your capacity to learn from them depends on your attitudes to other people. Intellectually humble people don’t repress, hide or ignore their vulnerabilities, like so many trolls. In fact, they see their weaknesses as sources of personal development, and use arguments as an opportunity to refine their views. People who are humble by nature tend to be more open-minded and quicker to resolve disputes, since they recognise that their own opinions might not be valid. The psychologist Carol Dweck at Stanford University in California has shown that if you believe intelligence can be developed through experience and hard work, you’re likely to make more of an effort to solve difficult problems, compared with those who think intelligence is hereditary and unchangeable.

Intellectual humility relies on the ability to prefer truth over social status. It is marked primarily by a commitment to seeking answers, and a willingness to accept new ideas – even if they contradict our views. In listening to others, we run the risk of discovering that they know more than we do. But humble people see personal growth as a goal in itself, rather than as a means of moving up the social ladder. We miss out on a lot of available information if we focus only on ourselves and on our place in the world.

At the other end of the scale lies intellectual arrogance – the evil twin of overconfidence. Such arrogance almost always stems from the egocentric bias – the tendency to overestimate our own virtue or importance, ignoring the role of chance or the influence of other people’s actions on our lives. This is what makes us attribute success to ourselves and failure to circumstance....
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#2
Good insight about multiple causes.

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Concerning anger, I've come to see it as a harmful emotion to both the person who is thought to have, or maybe even quite certainly, offended, and also harmful to the feeler of anger.   I practice being angry at things or situations instead of people.  Being angry at things or situations can lead to positive action while anger at people and wanting revenge can immolate or lead to immolation of one's life.

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Not having overconfidence has turned out not to be too hard for me, seemingly at least because I know how other people, or most very likely at least someone somewhere on earth, can do practically anything I can do better than I can.

However, I try to be sure to differentiate between confidence, which I see that I lack, and self-esteem, which I think people should all have.
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#3
(Aug 2, 2016 03:09 PM)elte Wrote: Not having overconfidence has turned out not to be too hard for me, seemingly at least because I know how other people, or most very likely at least someone somewhere on earth, can do practically anything I can do better than I can.

I used to love to fight. At that time in my life, there were very few female boxers.  The only sparring partners I had were young men.  I never came out on top.  They were always stronger and better than me.  I never thought of them as opponents, though.  I didn’t need to be better than them.  I just needed to be better.  If I encounter someone more knowledgeable than myself, I take full advantage of it.  My niece, she’s not even ten yet.  She wanted to play with my iPhone last night.  She asked me where my SkyView app was.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing.
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#4
(Aug 2, 2016 05:02 PM)Secular Sanity Wrote: I used to love to fight. At that time in my life, there were very few female boxers.  The only sparring partners I had were young men.  I never came out on top.  They were always stronger and better than me.  I never thought of them as opponents, though.  I didn’t need to be better than them.  I just needed to be better.  If I encounter someone more knowledgeable than myself, I take full advantage of it.  My niece, she’s not even ten yet.  She wanted to play with my iPhone last night.  She asked me where my SkyView app was.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

I like your attitude, which reminds me how I see three kinds of competition, the topic of which has a relationship to anger.  One of those, like applied to the boxing concerns competing against or with yourself, probably almost always an okay or good type of competion .  A second involves competing against others, while the third is competition with others, the difference between that second and third type depends upon the attitude of the one competing.  For example, is anger at others in the competitor's mind?  That would indicate competition against others, a bad type of competition.
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#5
(Aug 2, 2016 03:09 PM)elte Wrote:   I practice being angry at things or situations instead of people.  Being angry at things or situations can lead to positive action while anger at people and wanting revenge can immolate or lead to immolation of one's life.

Sometimes the 'thing' or the 'situation' is a person, and if your anger is justified and geared towards solving a problem then it's constructive.

"Anger is a natural reaction to being wronged by someone else and it’s a way of communicating that sense of injustice."

The Upside of Anger
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#6
I felt that I had to move beyond the classical viewpoint on anger.  The journey began for me after the 911 attack, and as I moved more away from the practice of getting angry at people, I found that receiving anger from others became more intolerable to me.  But that was ok because I noticed how people carrying out violence both mental and physical on others is a strong net negative for the overall human condition.  I conclude that it is better to get sad than mad.
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#7
(Aug 2, 2016 10:48 PM)elte Wrote: I felt that I had to move beyond the classical viewpoint on anger.  The journey began for me after the 911 attack, and as I moved more away from the practice of getting angry at people, I found that receiving anger from others became more intolerable to me.  But that was ok because I noticed how people carrying out violence both mental and physical on others is a strong net negative for the overall human condition.  I conclude that it is better to get sad than mad.

Years ago, when I was in high school, there was this girl that everyone picked on. I was walking out to the parking lot and noticed a huge crowd. Another girl was straddling her, holding her by the hair, and banging her head on the pavement. She was bleeding. Everyone else was cheering it on. It pissed me off. I told her to get the F*** off of her. She didn’t. So, I kicked her right in the face. She jumped up and I just glared at her. She walked away. What would you have done?
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#8
(Aug 3, 2016 02:05 AM)Secular Sanity Wrote: Years ago, when I was in high school, there was this girl that everyone picked on.  I was walking out to the parking lot and noticed a huge crowd.  Another girl was straddling her, holding her by the hair, and banging her head on the pavement.  She was bleeding.  Everyone else was cheering it on.  It pissed me off.  I told her to get the F*** off of her.  She didn’t.  So, I kicked her right in the face.  She jumped up and I just glared at her.  She walked away.  What would you have done?

There isn't any way for me to say what I would do in a particular hypothetical situation and I don't judge you negatively for how you handled it.  I try to keep in my mind that it isn't that I don't believe in nonviolence per se, but rather violence with a bad attitude that can range from anger to greed.  Also, humans are mammals that have instinctive drives that can show themselves at times.
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