Consistency

After seven months (feels longer) of writing nothing on typewriting.org, I should probably preface this by announcing my intention to pick up writing again. Since I last wrote here, I bought a house, got a new job, and a new (to me) car. The car didn’t change much, but the house feels like a very adult responsibility and the job feels like something I’ll do for a while. Life all seems very settled now, no longer the tumult of youth. Suddenly I’m old.

Several of my university friends were philosophy majors. I was not, and know very little about schools of thought on big issues, so I’m sure much of what I have to say has been said more precisely. But I have some ideas on life and whatnot and those that haven't changed much over the past two decades are likely to stick with me through the rest of this, so I thought I should write them down, a sort of ongoing This I Believe.

Trying to begin at what seems relatively like a beginning, my first idea, a principle to guide my other ideas, is that one’s ideas should be internally consistent. We call someone a "hypocrite" if they claim to believe something they really don’t, but I’m not sure we have a word for someone who believes two things that can not possibly both be true.

For example, some people will claim taxes are always bad while secretly valuing government programs paid for by taxes, possibly for political gain. And these people are hypocrites. But other people truly believe taxes are always bad, and truly value government programs paid for by taxes, and just don’t recognize the contradiction.

Some of them just don’t think about it enough to establish the contradiction. We might call them "lazy thinkers" or something to that effect. But what I want to focus on, as the antithesis of where I’m starting, is a whole different class of thinking that believes taxes are always bad, values government programs paid for by taxes, sees the contradiction there, but sees no problem in contradiction.

I don’t know how to engage such thought. I can’t even say inconsistency is "bad," because bad implies some sort of internally-consistent value judgment. "Confounding" is probably the best word I can come up with to describe the antithesis of how I want to approach ideas. Ideas should be consistent, not confounding.

I feel a bit like Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, when he says Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude; at least it's an ethos. The thing is, I think Nihilism is still better than confounding. Say what you like about the lack of tenets of Nihilism; at least they’re consistent.

So I’m starting with consistency as a base. I don’t really have any justification for that; I just don’t know how to think without it. If anything after seems inconsistent, I hope someone will point it out.

 
 
 
I was going to say that the word(s) you're looking for is "Cognitive Dissonance", but that is an uncomfortable feeling when you believe in two contradictory ideas. But then I found "Doublethink". Check them out:

Cognitive Dissonance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance
Doublethink: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublethink
 
 
 
 
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Believe that's Emerson. Also believe Goedel had something worthwhile to say on the subject.

All forms of thought and belief, to be useful, are also plastic. Don't sweat consistency, sweat contingency. Think about it. BTW, your little anti-spam test doesn't know that 2+one = three. ;-)
 
 
 
 
Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but it looks like Emerson was talking about consistency over time. I'm talking about consistency in the present, which doesn't seem to leave one with nothing to do, as Emerson said. Much the opposite. To use a metaphor, let's say I have a jigsaw puzzle and every day a new piece arrives. Consistency over time would suggest I reject the new pieces so my puzzle stays the same. Then I'd have nothing to do. What I'm talking about is rearranging the existing pieces until the new pieces fit, which turns into a lot of work. The important thing for me is that the pieces, the ideas, approach a coherent whole. I've found where they don't is where I should reexamine my ideas.
 

Be number 4:

 
 
 
knows half of 8 is