"Feed me a paradox and I will explode!"

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by greenberg, Mar 7, 2008.

  1. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    For illustration, let's start with some example statements:

    - Cats usually have six paws.

    - 1 + 2 = 7

    - This statement is a lie.

    - Tom feels sick. He has eaten chicken soup. The chicken soup is what made him sick.

    - Don't think of a pink elephant!

    And then further:

    - Be spontaneous!

    - Wife: You didn't buy the newspaper like I asked you because you just to wanted to oppose me!
    Husband: I'm sorry, I forgot to buy the newspaper.
    Wife: You didn't "forget", you did it on purpose!
    Husband: I forgot, really.
    Wife: So now you're saying that I lie?! First you don't buy the newspaper and then you accuse me of lying!

    - We must love God, and we must love God freely.

    - You're a bitch. I am just being honest and speaking the truth when I tell you this.

    - Man: Women are just plain stupid.
    Woman: Really? How do you know that?
    Man: Prove to me that you are not stupid.
    Woman: ?
    Man: Right, you can't, which is proof that you are stupid.

    - Person A: I feel we're not really getting along.
    Person B: Do you feel that we are not getting along, or do you think that we are not getting along?

    - How DARE you question such an obvious point?!

    - Mother comes to visit son. At first, the son just stands there.
    Mother: Well, won't you hug your own mother? (goes toward him with open arms)
    The son hugs her.
    Mother: Oh, you're such a baby, let go of me! (pushes him away)

    How do such statements make you feel?

    I think most of us felt less or more uncomfortable or irritated reading such statements that contain logical fallacies, of all kinds.
    And I think most of us also have made the experience that when uncomfortable or irritated that way, one is more prone to make mistakes, or to say and do things one later regrets.

    Such discomfort, however, can become severe as well. As Bateson suggested, a child being exposed to double binds a lot can even become schizophrenic.

    Here are some questions for this thread:

    1. How come there is -at least sometimes- a connection between logical fallacies and psychological distress (accompanied with physical distress)? What underlies this connection?

    2. How could this connection be broken without impairing the person's functionality? How could one witness even grossly conflicting messages, but not become psychologically swayed by that conflict?

    [Edited by Mod: Stryder]
    Fixed the URL for Bateson, I'm hoping that it was Gregory Bateson the OP was refering to.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 10, 2008
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Those are not paradoxes. You or the Moderator should edit your title.
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  5. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    I liked the juxtaposition of the logical fallicies with the psych warfare type stuff we tend to deal with interpersonally. Something liberating in just doing that.

    I think that logical fallacies in the psych warfare end of things cause distress because they abuse good will. Rather than 'getting' the whole forest of the other person's abusive approach we focus on the details. We work through the 'logic' of the attack. I think for these kinds of attacks to work we must have been exposed to them before. We are not innocent until proven guilty - in our own estimation, somewhere inside us - and these attacks hook into that. On some level we think we need to prove the details wrong rather than reacting to the abusive approach as a whole.

    The same process can be insidious in relation to our own inner voices that play the same games with us.

    So how do we become unswayed: well, I wish I was there completely. I think I have taken steps to being there. Some thoughts to being unhooked by these kinds of attacks:

    stop accepting them in your own head on your own. it is not more OK to abuse ourselves in ways that seem abusive when they come from the outside - or often most obviously when we see someone else be victimized.

    allow yourself to react to the whole 'vibe' of the encounter and do have a moral rule that one must argue with everyone, entertain any criticism, enter into details with any voice, person or group. One can simply dismiss out of hand if the vibe is bad. I think there is a lot of guilt and fear around allowing ourselves to do this. The thought forms that hold this in place need to be dissolved.

    don't confuse verbal messages with what is happening. content is often vastly less important that form and intent. Bateson might call these things meta-communications - something with meta anyway.

    It is very hard to prove that one is a decent good person in a discussion. So calling this into question is a clever strategy to put someone on the defensive. The assumption that one could prove it somehow - or is under some obligation to with someone who is not respectful - goes unquestioned.

    Torturers have always used logic in their interrogations. If they can get your mind to do their work for them, well, the whole thing is easier and more efficient.

    Some quick thoughts that have helped me extricate myself from certain dynamics.
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  7. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    and exploding might not be a bad response on occasion. we can share some of what they set off in us, it being safe to do this of course. if it is not safe then perhaps exploding at home, at least, can help uncover where the hooks were.
  8. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Here is a paradox:

    Syzygys always lies.
  9. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    In some old sci-fi stories, when a computer is fed the Liar's Paradox, it explodes - hence the allusion.

    The thread title is figurative, which I have taken into account by putting it in quote marks.

    If you read the OP, the title fits. Obviously, it is not just about paradoxes, but about logical fallacies of all kinds and possibly other cognitively quizzing statements, and their connection to psychological distress.
  10. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    If I read or hear something illogical, a fallacious argument, a paradox or something like that, my mind grinds to a halt - as if gravel were poured into a clock mechanism. And then it tries to mull over it.*
    It doesn't really matter whether the logical fallacy etc. is in the newspaper, a book, in a conversation with someone, or in my own thoughts; the difference seems to be only in the intensity of the irritation or distress.

    I think the problem runs deep. Namely, it seems to me that we are normally dependent on rational thought, attached to the notion that things should "make sense" - and when they don't, we tend to try to find a way for them to "make sense". If we wouldn't seek to make sense of things, we'd slowly go mad, would we not?
    So the issue could be down to what to do when things don't make sense - what hierarchy of actions to undertake when things don't make sense.

    *Hint: if you ever want to hypnotize me or push me over the edge, just feed me a nasty fallacy or paradox.
  11. mikenostic Stop pretending you're smart! Registered Senior Member

    -I've told you a million times to not exaggerate.

  12. marnixR in hibernation - don't disturb Registered Senior Member

    whenever someone tells you "this won't take a second" you know it will - and more
  13. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    Very honest open self-appraisal.
    I am not sure I am quite the same. I have be involved to have that shut down. I have to be at issue. It sounds like you are at issue even if the paradox does not directly involve you.
    If it directly involves me, then the aftermath can be long, though I am getting better at it. Often days later I will realize something obvious. Like I am locked on the details, I am zoomed in. When I take a step back I see what was happening or what assumptions were being made. I am now talking about things where I feel one thing is true, but my mind cannot quite explain it and it seems like someone else 'put me in this state' where I have feelings and thoughts I cannot reconcile.

    Thinking of Bateson, I immediately think of those cues that let people know something is a joke. I used to miss these a lot. I would take them seriously. I skipped the meta-cues BECAUSE MY FAMILY made this a good way of avoiding emotional pain. Since the meta messages often did not fit the 'content'.

    I guess I have been siding more and more with my gut reactions to the encounter and letting myself sort it out in the aftermath. Sometimes, of course, I have misunderstood. But it has felt better to push away something that feels bad as the core reaction without pressuring myself to explain why this is justified right off. The 'thing that feels bad' can be a line of reasoning, even one of my own.

    It's like I make a protective circle. I still check, at least sometimes, to see what was rationally messed up with what seemed like an attack, but this is more a support and confirmation - and occasionally disconfirmation - rather than a permission finding mission.

    But this does not fit encountering paradoxes, it is more the interpersonal encounter situation. Your reactions to the solving the paradox in this freezing....hm.

    Do you have a judgement that you should be able to work everything out?
    Or that things will get out of control if they are not quickly resolved?

    Just wondering if there might be thought form that demands a certain kind of response for you - perhaps even with projected bad outcomes if you do not perform.

    Me guessing using myself as template. Might get lucky.

    I mean I was pretty humbled by the why do mirrors reverse right and left but not up and down. Those if I focus very hard I have managed to get that one. I have met so many people who are so much smarter than me in certain areas, I think I gave up. I mean I try, but it doesn't seem like my strength or my role.
  14. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    Oh, yes. I have hypnosis training. Using paradoxes does help hypnotize people. In fact a good deal of an induction is overloading and confusing the conscious mind. When the person is focused on the confusion the other messages just go right in.
  15. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    It's just a lie.
  16. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    That is not a paradox, but a white lie...

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  17. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    If it's a dentist it is moving into grey areas.
  18. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Seriously, you really want to hear it is going to take 35 minutes???
  19. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    It could be that what I am experiencing is simply the predicament of the amateur philosopher (remember the thread?).
    Or it could be that over time, I have become more sensitive to what is being said and thought, but have not yet developed the psychological means to accomodate this sensitivity.
    Or it could be that I have a mild form of autism.
    Or a combination of the above, or something else.

    As for situations with other people - of course, it is possible that one doesn't understand the meta-communication, or that meta-communication is not allowed. Or even that the meta-communication is being endlessly challenged (happens a lot with pseudo-philosophers).

    I think there is an important aspect here that many seem to overlook or downplay its importance: Namely, how can one trust a person who employs a lot of logical fallacies in their communication? How reliable is such a person? How safe can one feel with such a person around?

    Some might say, "Oh, don't be so pedantic, it was just a logical fallacy! Not everyone is a philosopher!"
    But who would trust a doctor who would say "This medication worked for my previous patient, and I am sure it will work for you too, we don't need to do any tests before you start taking it"?!

    I think it can be a terrible discovery that one is in close relationships with people whom one cannot really trust or rely on, including oneself.

    Simply pushing away something on the grounds that it feels bad, might help, of course. But such pushing away is also an instance of saying "Some things just cannot be explained rationally".
    If we hold that "Some things just cannot be explained rationally", then there is a scary potential conclusion: That one cannot rely on reason. But ultimately, what else do we have to make sense of our experiences and the world, except reason? Because even when we put our feelings into words, these statements are then still subject to reason.

    Yes, I do. Because if I don't work out one thing, where will this not working things out end? If I don't rely on reason in one instance, can I then ever rely on reason at all? The answer seems to be No.

    Here's an amusing story:

    I find this so appealing - to be able to take in all sorts of information, contradictory or not, without blinking an eye, and still act rationally all the time!
    How would one do this?
  20. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Become irresponsible - i.e. drop the assumption that you are obligated to do something or have done something about what is going to happen next.

    Faced with the back end of a truck that is simultaneously signaling right and fading left, a cat will curl up on the floorboards of the car and go to sleep.
  21. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    The pattern is more important than the names. I like the one about sensitivity. That one seems more like part of an adventure!

    I am not sure it is so easy to catch logical fallacies. If they are speaking in very clear syllogisms, I guess. But I find that a lot of 'logical' people leave a trail of logical steps that only much later can I notice how we glided away from the truth. Like magicians with great sleight of hand, not that I think they stand there, for the most part, and say to themselves, now I will pull one over on this guy.

    Unfortunately it might be more like 'studies show....' but the studies were done by this or that pharmaceutical company and in their research.....and they gave him free samples and a trip to Baltimore and he doesn't notice how he is fooled or swayed. Or she.


    I think there are people who behave well and say nice things but I would not want them to babysit my kid. Not because they will turn out to be pedophiles or secret cult members but because there is something off. I have found that I cannot rely on my rationality to make all my decisions.
    You also do not have to work it out right away. You can push something away because it feels bad and contemplate it later. This obviously is a useful approach in a knife attack when you are not 100% sure, at night, that the guy coming at you has a knife. But I think our minds and emotional bodies are sensitive and it is better to move back, push away than require unbelievably complex interactions to be sorted out before taking defensive measures. You are going up for a lay up in a basketball game, it is no time to start imagining diagrams and trajectories.

    I don't think that is true. I use reason for some things and feelings/intuition for others. Combinations abound.
    Here's an amusing story:

    Cats are often at one step remove from reality. Dogs are immersed. Hamlet in the early parts of the play, then bang the dog is released and a lot of people die. The repressed dog becomes a pit bull. Cats are also very aware of themselves as visual objects. I am not sure how this plays in, but I have a feeling it does. They are more objective about themselves. As a tendency.
    I don't know what acting rationally would mean, even in easy situations. While with a woman you have just met and are attracted to.....while walking on the beach alone....choosing what to eat...deciding to be friends...choosing what book to read. I mean there are so many factors involved I don't think the rational mind can handle all of them or knows how to prioritize them. How does it value the olfactory elements in each of the above situations? For example.

    But I like the way you are raising the issue and I'd be curious to hear what you come up with. Keep us posted.
  22. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    Absolutely. If I hear it is going to be a short time, I have made all sorts of internal emotional adjustments. When that time arrives and passes, I lose trust in the one who told me - and the guy is in my mouth - AND I have chosen, not consciously but nevertheless, the wrong strategy for dealing with unpleasantness.
  23. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    I think it depends on how trained one is to spot them.

    I suppose there is a difference in how we understand "rationality".
    For me, something is "rational" only in regard to a particular reference frame. I don't think something can be rational per se, without context, without a frame of reference.
    Giving up rationality is, IMO, ignoring any referece frame and trying to act "objectively".

    I would interpret this that you have been rational in regard to a particular frame of reference; rational either in regard to "reason", or in regard to "feelings/intuition".
    So, given a particular frame of reference, buying cinammon sticks can be rational; given some other frame of reference, buying a car insurance can be rational. Etc.

    I think it means acting in relation to a particular frame of reference; where this frame of reference can be defined as "objective reality", or "my goals, my priorities" or something else.

    As we have already noticed with the examples with cats and dogs, trying to act in relation to (what seems to be) "objective reality" can be very confusing. While acting in relation to "my goals, my priorities" can be straightfoward (but not necessarily easy).

    The thing is, of course, that "my goals, my priorities" is sometimes very difficult to figure out, and "objective reality" seems potentially more reliable.

    Thank you!

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