Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fallacy of Experience

Yesterday, Yahoo News senior foreign policy reporter Laura Rozen tweeted this gem:

One of the gentlemen I follow, @ExJon, replied thus:

This proposition is the logical extension of the chickenhawk criticism, which might be leveled at anyone who dare say anything about war without having experienced it as a soldier.  It is the same reason men cannot criticize (only support) abortion.  It is the same reason I can't criticize your music unless I love it as much as you do.

Experience is ultimate trump card.

What I'm calling the Fallacy of Experience is the assumption that experience + reason trumps reason alone.  The matter is confusing because experience can provide qualification.  It does not, however, bar others from forming opinions on the matter.

Experience as the primary qualifier leads to a few problems.  What if someone with the same experience as you comes to the opposite conclusion you do?  Did he do something wrong?  If you admit people can have legitimate disagreements with the same experience, could not the opinion of the inexperienced be legitimate?

What gives your argument its credence?  If all that qualifies argument for consideration is experience, creating a well-rounded worldview becomes difficult.  In other words, having to experience something to have a legitimate opinion leads to bad decisions.  I don't need to violate my purity to know it's a bad idea.

The same divide comes between Atheism and Christianity.

With Atheism, one must try everything in search of happiness or self-actualization (or whatever).  Anything is game, provided you feel your experience is good.  I mean, who can argue with your experience with pot unless he's done drugs himself?  Try: A doctor.  Or: Anyone who's taken a basic psychology course.

With Christianity, one has a clear structure in which to reason.  This moral rubric leads not just to happiness, but to the happiness of others.  What carnal pleasure seems to work for one man may not work for another.  Personalities differ.  But Christianity offers a solution made by the one who allowed us to have different personalities.  But it's not one size fits all.  It's all sizes fit one.  He can mold anyone, regardless of his former estate, into a more Christlike follower of him.  That's the power of the Gospel.

Okay, not trying to get preachy, but my point stands: If experience is the ultimate guide to value, can we not justify anything, provided we have the right past to back us up?  Some folks justify massive amounts of abortion because some woman are raped.  Even if rape was a legitimate justification (a discussion for another day), that experience has no claim over the vast majorities of abortions, performed out of convenience.

Who you are and where you've been are both important, but they do not govern reality.  What guides us is not the emotion produced by past experience but reason guided by evidence.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lessons from My Twitter Archive

I've tried the one-step solutions to backing up one's Twitter feed. They didn't work. Eventually, I relented and copy-pasted the 2,000-odd Tweets in my feed using the reliable TwimeMachine.  

The good? I don't have to rely on Twitter's sketchy search engine to relive past Twitter glories.

The bad? I can see where I messed up.  

I retweet too much, follow too many people, and tweet about too many different things. How does one control himself on Twitter?

Photo Source

Too much Retweeting

If you've been on Twitter for any length of time, you have probably seen those twitter accounts with 15 retweets for everything one original tweet. Do not be that account.

My current approach is to consider replying or adding as a favorite instead. Thinking twice before retweeting is key.

Too much to Read

I know, I know, "Following 88" doesn't seem awful, but it's amazing how quickly tweets can pile up (particularly during GOP debates, despite how frequently folks forswear them).

The answer? Lists. I use Tweetbot, which gives the option of using a list as the main timeline. A Twitter Lite list containing my favorite accounts is now my default timeline on my iPod, unless I'm particularly stir-crazy.

Too much Diversity

I like writing. I like politics. I like some technology. It all comes out on Twitter. This is good in that it is an accurate reflection of myself, but I feel it would be advantageous to focus on my favorite one and let the others fade into the background.

Things I did Right

In which I provide the requisite bullet list:

  • Buffer: scheduled tweets available on any platform (even iOS)
  • bitly: my favorite link shortener, which can be connected to Buffer
  • Consistency: I haven't stopped tweeting, which is good. Or, so I'm told
  • Automatic backup of my tweets using ifttt and Evernote
I'm no Twitter genius, but I think I'm learning the ropes, even if it is by trial and error.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Are eBooks Bringing Back the 1800s?

Have you ever read fluff fiction from the late 1800s?  My advice: Don't.  It's as though today's teenagers acquired good spelling and went back in time with the purpose of creating the most cliché-ridden fiction imaginable.  Are ebooks opening the floodgates of demand for literary fluff?

My contention is that ebooks are bringing us into an era in which we have to again decide what constitutes a classic.  Think about it.  In the mid-1800s, what are now Classics were pop fiction (with some exceptions, naturally).  Charles Dickens published books in magazines for crying out loud.  Imagine today's intelligentsia hailing a work of serialized fiction as a classic of the 21st century.

Are you done laughing?  If not, go back and read it again.  Get it out of your system.

Okay.  Let's keep going.

The reason ebooks could be to blame is the new ease of publication.  You wrote an original rich-boy-meets-poor-girl-in-a-retro-Victorian-England novel?  There's a platform for that.  You wrote an original vampires-get-erotic-somehow novel?  There's a platform for that?  You wrote some Firefly fanfic?  Yeah, I'm sure there's even a platform for that.

That platform is the ebook.  After all, why bother asking someone to kill trees for your novel, when you could ask them to flood other people's iPads?  It's win-win.

If you've stopped reading, and instead are trying not to tuck yourself in a corner and murmur about the fall of Western Civilization, despair not!  There is an advantage to this mass proliferation of literary Miracle Whip: We will be forced to think for ourselves.  Instead of communist professors deciding which Maya Angelou poem gets the nod of excellence, we can decide.  That can be a bit scary, yes, but I believe it's the only way literature can survive.

Come to think of it, C. S. Lewis wrote an entire book about my conclusion.  If you haven't read his Experiment in Criticism, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, if we won't recognize we can choose the best literature of today, if we refuse to find which books inspire the greatest literary experiences, then we're stuck.  Stuck with the intellectual elite telling us what is meaningful.  Whatever that means.

Go read something.  It might be might be as bad as an 1890s fluff piece.  It might be a Classic.

(Inspiration for Article)