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The One Ring Forums: Off Topic: The Pollantir:
How do you approach difficult or controversial issues?
Poll: How do you approach difficult or controversial issues?
I let others fight it out; not usually something I'm concerned with
I rely on a trusted authority to tell me what to think (what authority?)
I rely on my own common sense and intuition
I approach such issues using a method I've been trained in (e.g., logical reasoning, scientific method)
I keep a skeptical mind and investigate everyone's claims for myself, keeping a keen eye out for bias - including my own!
View Results (62 votes)


Apr 30 2015, 3:30pm

Post #1 of 17 (2759 views)
How do you approach difficult or controversial issues? Can't Post

I read some fascinating works on how people learn & think while I was doing my book research, and I got to wondering how people here make up their minds about some of the difficult issues of today, like global warming for example. Do you think about it at all, do you let FOX News or your parents tell you what to think, do you rely on your own gut instincts, or do you get out there and research the issue for yourself, discounting most of what others say unless it meets your criteria for rigorous, unbiased thinking?

And rarest of all, do you watch out for evidence that your own worldview may be biasing you towards accepting one viewpoint without question while rejecting another out of hand? Are you self-skeptical, in other words?

The books I read suggested that there's kind of a natural progression here. Have you yourself moved from, say, accepting the word of a college professor as law to realizing that your own gut reactions are a better guide for you? Are you one way about certain things - like your faith - and another about politics? Multiple answers are permitted.

(This post was edited by Annael on Apr 30 2015, 3:31pm)

Aunt Dora Baggins

Apr 30 2015, 5:10pm

Post #2 of 17 (2680 views)
I voted for your last one, but [In reply to] Can't Post

I have to admit that's my ideal and goal. I'm of course not immune from being swayed by the opinions of those I admire.

Uncle Baggins says "Evil is what people do when they're sure they're right." And I have to add that I'm as susceptible to that danger as anybody.

I have definitely moderated my thinking on some controversial issues over the decades, and there are many for which I have no answer, only a kind of sadness that there doesn't seem to be one.

Grey Havens

Apr 30 2015, 5:34pm

Post #3 of 17 (2679 views)
My two cents... [In reply to] Can't Post

I consider news sources that are willing to issue retractions and corrections more reliable than not. Ditto news sources that present multiple points of view without pandering to the holders of unfounded opinions for the sake of presenting 'opposing views'.
I trust scientific findings that have withstood repeated testing more than those that have not.
I'm a proponent of peer review in fields where building up skill and knowledge are important. As long as those 'peers' are more than paid representatives of a vested interest.
I wish philosophy were taught more in secondary schools, because there are few subjects that help us examine bias so closely - when it's taught right.
Every human being is 'only a little fellow in a wide world after all', so there's no way any one of us - or even all of us - know close to the tiniest fraction of a percent of what there is to know on Earth, let alone a whole Universe. So we must be able to accept that there are things that are beyond our ken, beyond our ability to understand, or we run the risk of tripping over our own certainty - catastrophically, at times.
Faith and doubt are not opposites. Faith and certainty are.

Okay, so it's more like two bucks...

- Ara


Apr 30 2015, 6:07pm

Post #4 of 17 (2674 views)
I hear ya [In reply to] Can't Post

when I discovered philosophical hermeneutics I thought "this should be taught to everyone!"

My avatar reflects the "fusion of horizons" concept. I've often thought that if I were to teach a class on this brand of philosophy, I'd make everyone stand in a big circle. Then I'd put a beach ball that was striped in different colors in the middle, so that everyone could see maybe three of the stripes from their vantage point. Then I'd invite them to argue about what color the ball "really" is, as a way of illustrating how our individual worldviews restrict our ability to see "truth."


Apr 30 2015, 6:09pm

Post #5 of 17 (2674 views)
the last one is my ideal too [In reply to] Can't Post

but I admit that sometimes I go with my intuition. More so the older I get, because I've found it's usually right - at least when it comes to people or issues that have a metaphysical, not a physical, basis.

I would probably not be a good juror if the evidence went all one way but my gut sense of the person went another.

(This post was edited by Annael on Apr 30 2015, 6:11pm)

Grey Havens

Apr 30 2015, 7:18pm

Post #6 of 17 (2656 views)
Being a Pragmatist, [In reply to] Can't Post

I tend to agree. And I believe that 'truth' is more than a concept - it's just nearly impossible for us to ever do more than approximate it in our own and shared perceptions. I'm not going all Platonic here - I don't agree with his idea of 'Forms'. For me, it's more like calling witnesses in a trial to testify to what they saw. Each perspective, rightly understood, contributes to understanding 'what truly happened'. The difficulty is, as Heisenberg pointed out, it simply isn't possible to observe accurately enough to fully understand the state of things. Of course, he said it with regard to position and velocity, but I feel safe generalizing the concept. Wink

One analogy I find useful is from the adage 'If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.' I've decided that means we're much better off, individually and communally, cultivating a wide and varied collection of tools to draw from as situations require. It isn't perfect, but it makes for better approximations.

Goodness, what a fun topic - thanks for starting it, Annael!


May 1 2015, 2:33am

Post #7 of 17 (2635 views)
I've been known to use all of the above... [In reply to] Can't Post

at different times and for different issues, depending on what the issue is and what resources I have available.


May 1 2015, 7:21am

Post #8 of 17 (2621 views)
It depends on the topic. [In reply to] Can't Post

In matters of science. it's depends on the source: if it's a respectable scientist or organization, I believe it.

Political or social issues are harder. Then I listen to the arguments on both sides, and make up my mind. I'm more inclined to agree with some sources than others, but I am never purely aligned on one side or the other.


May 1 2015, 10:47pm

Post #9 of 17 (2556 views)
All of the above and none of the above. [In reply to] Can't Post

There aren't that many controversial issues that I care enough about to have an opinion. And unfortunately, there are too many people who aren't capable of being rational about certain issues, and it's pointless to try to discuss anything controversial with them because it always devolves into an ugly spitting match.

I've always said that if an insult and an ugly meme is the best defense you have for your position, then maybe your position isn't a strong as you think it is.

But when it is something that does interest me, I do my own research and filter it through my own common sense, but I will listen to other people who have more knowledge and authority on the subject than I do.

It's easier to describe how I decide what *not* to believe about a controversial issue. For those aforementioned nuts who start foaming at the mouth when they simply hear the topic being raised, I tend to shy away from their espoused point of view (when they finally get around to expressing it) just because they're jerks.

That's often also how I decide how not to vote (since it's next to impossible to find correct and unbiased campaign information). If candidate's groupies are loons, I probably don't want him/her in office either. Tongue

Grey Havens

May 2 2015, 1:36am

Post #10 of 17 (2545 views)
Depends on who I am approaching [In reply to] Can't Post

Some people can discuss/debate vehemently but respectfully, others just end up in punching mode or with hurt feelings.


May 3 2015, 6:02pm

Post #11 of 17 (2471 views)
I tend to assume [In reply to] Can't Post

that those who foam at the mouth are those who believe someone else without question and are threatened by anyone who questions that belief.

And yes, there's no talking to them. "How do you approach people who think differently from you" would be an interesting question,with possible answers like "I don't," "I do my best to shame them," "I try to overwhelm them with facts," or "I just try to model a different way of thinking without confrontation."

(This post was edited by Annael on May 3 2015, 6:03pm)

Grey Havens

May 8 2015, 12:48pm

Post #12 of 17 (2380 views)
These questions are too difficult [In reply to] Can't Post

Tongue Wink

(This post was edited by Elarie on May 8 2015, 12:48pm)


May 8 2015, 9:36pm

Post #13 of 17 (2371 views)
I know, [In reply to] Can't Post

Just swear at the person and run away. See above thread for tips. Laugh

Tol Eressea

May 13 2015, 4:18pm

Post #14 of 17 (2330 views)
there's a point [In reply to] Can't Post

where you go, "old enough to make my own decisions"...

and then you remember the sensei who pointed out the kid with the white belt who was the only one in the class to come up with a wise answer to a question: "see, you can learn something from a white belt"...

Everyone knows something you don't. even that dumb as a bag of rocks football guy in the news.

Now that's scary.

I try to listen to other sides of a question, but often have a side, and take those with that view more seriously.

I like listening to BBC news (or other viewpoints from outside the US) for that outside viewpoint. I tend to listen to NPR (National Public Radio) or Public TV which tends to be more intellectual and more centric and broad in its reporting.

One of the problems with the internet is that it's easy to find people with the same opinion and just toss that opinion back and forth making it stronger. You don't always get the opposing view.

I think we have instincts, internal hard wiring... we come with it... we're part of the Universe and instinctively know some things if we listen.

I tend to be more instinctual than scientifically rigorous, but I think we need both.


May 16 2015, 6:12am

Post #15 of 17 (2295 views)
For me the last two options are the same thing. [In reply to] Can't Post

I try to do the last two options, which are the same thing as far as i am concerned.

However i know i am human and even though we believe we can be super logical, most the time we do not think this way, even when we think we do.

I try to gather all the evidence i can, critique it, rank it for rigour and significance if this is possible and make a judgment from there, for other things i go with my instincts but this would be more for trivial matters and have found it to be right in almost all cases, which is funny as everyone seems to think this, yet people's instincts are very different, mine are to question and be skeptical, try to be logical and follow a scientific method with an open mind.


May 16 2015, 6:21am

Post #16 of 17 (2293 views)
You should show them a photo of that dress that went viral [In reply to] Can't Post

The one where people thought was either black and blue or white and gold i think it was. That would be fun to get to the 'truth' lol.


May 18 2015, 4:53pm

Post #17 of 17 (2245 views)
Well... [In reply to] Can't Post

I try to understand the opposing view as honestly as I can without trivializing or demonizing it. I assume there's smart people on both sides of every argument and so what seems obvious to me may not be so clear cut from another viewpoint. Of course some positions are extemely repugnant to my own moral value system, but even then I think it can be helpful to understand why people think that way. Simply saying "they're dumb" or "they're evil" is easy and comfortable, but most people have what they consider good and intellligent reasons for what they believe and do.


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