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Cognitive Dissonance and the Conceit in Knowledge

  1. Jul 29, 2010 #1
    Most people learn though reinforcement rather then logic. The supposed acquisition of knowledge helps to build our confidence in our beliefs. It gives us a sense of order. The search for order is often obtained though the exercise of affirmation of our beliefs. That is we seek consistency. This gives us a seance of meaning and order.

    Our acceptance of knowledge is based on the amount we hear it (reinforcement), our confidence in the source, and how well it reaffirms our beliefs. The principle reaction to many to a challenge to their core beliefs is one of defense. The easiest defense to an uncomfortable message is to attack the messenger. It is easier to rationalize away our cognitive dissonance then it is to come to terms with the fact that the values we hold dear could be wrong.

    We re-affirm our beliefs by attacking the messenger rather then by accepting a weakness in our selves just as the fox, in the story of the fox and the grapes, attacks the worth of the grapes he isn't able to obtain:

    "The idea of "sour grapes" comes from the fable The Fox and the Grapes by Aesop (ca. 620–564 BCE). The fox is unable to reach the grapes, and, experiencing cognitive dissonance, reduces that dissonance by believing the grapes are sour. This example follows a pattern: one desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces one's dissonance by criticizing it. Jon Elster calls this pattern "adaptive preference formation."[1]"

    Socrates faced similar attacks on him for chalging the depth of the knowledge of the poets. Socrates believed, http://johns243acreighton.amplify.com/2010/07/29/socrates-know-man-is-wiser-then-the-man-who-knows-he-knows-nothing/" [Broken]


    Recognizing our ignorance helps to resolve dissonance but we are conditioned in such a way to put part in our self worth in how much of the ideas of the system we absorbed. This is the 4th lesson of education:

    "By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors and disgraces I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestined chain of command."

    We are taught that absorbing what we are suppose to learn makes us smart. Therefore, accepting our ignorance is dissonant to the intellectual conceit we were conditioned to have. As Kant writes http://johns243acreighton.amplify.com/2010/07/26/kant-reason-and-athority/" [Broken] no idea is beyond the critique of reason:

    The blind acceptance of the knowledge we are conditioned to believe only helps to deeply capture our beliefs so that we believe what we are taught to believe by the system. Aristotle taught that in rhetoric you should use as premises the things people already believe. Well, their is no central organization in the system which originates beliefs, beliefs which are conducive to the interest of power will be perpetuated. The primary interest of any system is stability but change is allowed provided it is viewed as conducive to the interest of the system. Thus in the interest of stability only small changes are made to what we believe. That is most new ideologies encompus a large part of the ideology which came before.

    The second interest of people with power is maintaining and increasing that power so ideas which are conducive to helping people with power maintain and increase it will be propagated.

    Power comes form many things such as wealth, influence, speaking skills, looks, political clout, marketing, force, and following. Corporations, Academics and instuations, churchases and non profit organizations all have an interest in power.

    The third motivation is ideology (this encompass ethics) but the most successful and powerful ideologies will be those which are on the rite side of social change. Hence, the people who are motivated by ideology are most successful when their ideology already encompass in a large part what people already believe. However, this motivation can be both a steering and reacting force as it is hard to tell if people arrive at their ideology though critical thought or by being captured by the conditioning of the system.

    We are all part of the system, we have a vote in the price of goods though our purchases, a vote in who we elect and some of us own shares in corporations which influence us based on their marketing their culture and their hiring practices. Corporations represent a significant source of power as they lobby in terms of dollar value six times that of non profit organizations but this power in influenced in party by the populous.

    If we recognize that we are conditioned to learn the beliefs of the system, if we can break free of the emotional and intellectual dependency we were conditioned to have and if we are willing to accept the limitations in our own intellectual faculties then we should hold much more rational and unbiased opinions. If this happens then the politics of ad-hominem and mass hysteria will lose it's power and hopefully society as a whole will be better.

    Rationality will help each player in the system from the individual to the bureaucracy to the corporation use their power in a rational way so at worse they act in their best interest and at best they act in the best interest of everyone.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
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