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The imagination gap, part 1

Monday 10 December 2018, 03:00

A deficit in hypothetical cognition

In The World As If, Sarah Perry gives "an account of how magical thinking made us modern." She discusses how to define "magical thinking" and suggests that the diverse things to which people apply that label form "a collection of stigmatized examples of a more general, and generally useful, cognitive capacity." Namely, the capacity to entertain false, "not expected to be proven," or otherwise not exactly true propositions as if they were true.

Although magical thinking may often be called a behaviour of children or of those in primitive cultures, what Perry calls the "as if" mode of thought (I want to also include "what if") is in no way primitive. The view that magical thinking is for children and the uneducated can and should be inverted: mastery of hypothetical "as if" cognition is necessary for functioning as an adult in a literate technological society, and characteristic of the most sophisticated thinking human beings ever do.

Ad stramineum hominem

Sunday 25 March 2018, 16:11

Sometimes I find myself on the receiving end of false accusations of "straw man" argumentation, and it feels like this happens abnormally often to me in particular. It's baffling because when it happens, it doesn't make any sense.

How Wikipedia could save itself

Saturday 19 February 2011, 00:15

I don't think Wikipedia wants to save itself. But if they really wanted to, I know how they could do it.