The importance of being wrong

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Icon
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 08:18 am
It seems to me that most people hate being wrong. They hate it so much that they will defend their point to the death in many cases. It seems, however, that being wrong is one of the best things that can happen to you. As you assume that you are correct, you turn a blind eye to other options and possibilities which may, and often do, conflict with your notions of right, wrong, accurate, inaccurate and so forth. Where as the ability to understand your fault and move on provides an environment where you can "take more than one shot" at it, if you will.

So let's start the thread this way. Name three things that you are willing to accept you could be wrong about and then name three things that you "know" to be correct.
 
vajrasattva
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 08:22 am
@Icon,
This is a divine truth. If one was never wrong one would never truely know right. If feel that i learn more from mistakes then from being correct.

I could be wrong about God
I could be wrong about Monism
and
I could be wrong about buddhism

I know my name is alex
I know that that means the defender of the faith of mankind
I know that blue is my favorite color
 
Twistedgypsychil
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 08:39 am
@Icon,
I could be wrong about my theory, The intellect and consciousness of energy.

I could be wrong about the existence or non existence of god.

I could be wrong about my choice in politics.

I know I am a good mother.

I know I am a good wife.

I know that I need to ground my children in a belief system that works for them.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 08:56 am
@Icon,
I can sum up all three potential wrongs by saying I could be wrong about anything or everything.

I know that the world is not black and white there are no absolute truths, it is usually accepting the side which has the fewest cons that you are willing to accept.
 
Icon
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 09:39 am
@Icon,
I could be wrong about everything in my life. The three that I am struggling with right now are:

My notions of faith
My notions of right and wrong (moral)
My comprehension of others around me.

The three things I know to be true are:
I know I am curious
I know I am confused
I know that I truly "know" nothing.

While replying to this thread, look at your life and try to consider what being wrong truly means. Does it mean that you are a bad person or that you are in some way deficient? It does not for me. For me it means that I am human and human is not a terible thing to be.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 11:31 am
@Icon,
Icon, I understand where you're going with this, and there really can be much said about learning from one's mistakes. However, let's not take this too far. Let's not praise people that are wrong, for, well, being wrong. Being wrong isn't something we should strive for, is it? There's certainly something to be said about those who are too comfortable about being wrong. I think, as you say, we shouldn't think we're terrible for making mistakes, but I also don't think we should seep in the hot water of wrongness comfortability for too long, either. This can lead to a stagnant mind.

Icon wrote:
It seems, however, that being wrong is one of the best things that can happen to you. As you assume that you are correct, you turn a blind eye to other options and possibilities which may, and often do, conflict with your notions of right, wrong, accurate, inaccurate and so forth.


This can certainly be true, but can't it also be true that assuming you're wrong can also hinder your growth? Perhaps assuming you're right about something will allow you to learn about a derivative topic you couldn't have reached unless you initially made the assumption. Einstein couldn't have made the breakthroughs he did if he never assumed he was right about energy and mass and their mathematical equivalence. The examples obviously go on.

---

Next, we must consider the semantics of "wrong" or "right".

1.) Example: 1+1=3. wrong

2.) Example: Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania. wrong

How do each of these answers compare even though they're both wrong? Could either of these answers be right? The second answer could, at some point in time, become right. The capital could change. Most would agree 1+1=2 is tautological though and cannot change. The point is, our usage of "wrong" and "right" differ here; in the former we are using a fixed logical system (tautology), and in the latter we are not. We must keep this in mind.

Next, how do these aforementioned wrongs and rights compare to the wrongs and rights found in moral judgment calls?

3.) Example: Mary is a bad person. right or wrong?

There's a difference when we say we're wrong or right here, as there's no definitive logical system (such as mathematics) where we can evaluate our answer. Many people may think Mary is a bad person, but you may think Mary is not a bad person. Who would be right in this case, and how do wrongs and rights in examples such as these compare to examples #1 and #2?

---

Lastly, we must take our values, interests, and personalities into consideration. Why? Well, my being "wrong" about a variable calculus answer will not make me feel the same way as my being "wrong" about someone's character. Personally, I pride myself on my perception in social interaction, so I would be more grief stricken if I found out I was wrong about Mary than if I found out I was wrong about a math problem. Of course, that's just me, and everyone will vary.

---

So, then, let's tie this all up in a neat little box (I won't wrap it yet because I think I'll add more later).

  • Becoming too comfortable with being wrong can be just as harmful as being too ignorant to learn what is right.
  • Semantics must be considered -- What do we mean by "wrong" or "right; in what context are these words being used?
  • Personalities and values must be considered -- Being "wrong" or being "right" can best be understood after evaluating the individual experiencing and could mean drastically different things for different people!
 
richrf
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 11:42 am
@Zetherin,
Yes, I also believe that one learns from one's mistakes. Yet, in school we are taught that we must be right. It is sort of an interesting contrast.

I think I am probably wrong about most things in my life. Things are always changing.

I could be wrong about the direction of the stock market.

I could be wrong about how to hit a tennis ball.

I could be wrong about what I should be developing on my web site.

I have no idea what is going to happen next. I play probabilities as they do on the poker table.

Rich
 
Khethil
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 01:03 pm
@Icon,
Icon;87338 wrote:
It seems to me that most people hate being wrong. They hate it so much that they will defend their point to the death in many cases. It seems, however, that being wrong is one of the best things that can happen to you. As you assume that you are correct, you turn a blind eye to other options and possibilities which may, and often do, conflict with your notions of right, wrong, accurate, inaccurate and so forth. Where as the ability to understand your fault and move on provides an environment where you can "take more than one shot" at it, if you will.

So let's start the thread this way. Name three things that you are willing to accept you could be wrong about and then name three things that you "know" to be correct.


I'm not sure I could answer to the positive on either account. I believe many ideas are virtually beyond dispute (minus the word games, of course, wherein any statement can be crafted to assert its predicate).

But I do agree with the sentiment without qualification. Here's how I personally look at it:

  • What gives one the ability to learn is being OK with change
  • Supporting the ability to change is a quality of humility that accepts always the possibility "I don't know everything"
  • What enables this is being OK with being incorrect

So yea, I think it's absolutely essential. I'd almost go so far as to suggest that nothing has ever been learned, realized or discovered by anyone who wasn't at peace with themselves enough to be ok with being incorrect.

Good point - I think this issue needs more emphasis in the philosophical community.

Thanks
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 01:15 pm
@Icon,
It's easy to be wrong in private, but seems much more difficult for people to concede that they are wrong in public. Hence why we sometimes get arguments on this forum or somewhere else that just go back and forth and never seem to get anywhere. Somewhere along the line, people get taught that it is weak and undesirable to apologize or to admit that you may be wrong. This inhibits real discussion, where two or more people can work for an answer without a self-serving bias.

I don't know if I'm really "right" or "wrong" about anything; I hardly ever completely make up my mind, because there's always that bit of doubt that holds me back, or a good point made by someone else.

Some people like to guilt you into having firm beliefs. They will say that it's "important to really believe in something". The only important belief I can see though, is not to believe in anything. I have my suspicions, but remain open to possibilities, and consider this to be prudent. Like the skeptics, 'tis best to suspend judgment. Or as John Lennon said, "I just believe in me...and that's reality."

Usually when someone tells me they "believe" in some type of cause, I prepare myself to be attacked on all fronts by an onslaught of, not their own thoughts, but the mission statement of some social group that likes to rope people in like cattle and quash individual thought. In my case, "these are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."
 
Icon
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 01:41 pm
@Zetherin,
I was wondering how long it would take for this to com up. Thank you Zeth for not disappointing me. Now is where we get to the meat of the matter. Smile

Zetherin;87418 wrote:
Icon, I understand where you're going with this, and there really can be much said about learning from one's mistakes. However, let's not take this too far. Let's not praise people that are wrong, for, well, being wrong. Being wrong isn't something we should strive for, is it? There's certainly something to be said about those who are too comfortable about being wrong. I think, as you say, we shouldn't think we're terrible for making mistakes, but I also don't think we should seep in the hot water of wrongness comfortability for too long, either. This can lead to a stagnant mind.


Let me first address this section by bringing out the main points and touching on those.
I agree that being wrong is NOT something that we should strive for. I do, however, feel that it is something we should be prepared for and something we should look forward to. There is a very large distinction between striving for something and looking forward to something. When we are wrong, it should be celebrated within ourselves. This is because we are gicen a chance for freedom. We are given the chance to take another path. It is a moment where we are finally allowed to move past our own inadequacies and improve.

So I must disagree with your second point. As a species we are reactionary. We react to our situation according to our emotional and mental state at the time. This means that our strongest emotion is what drives us at the time. In situations where we are afraid of being wrong, we will defend our point regardless of the validity. If we embrace being wrong; get comfortable with the idea, then we have a chance to interact with our error without needlessly defending it. This is not only more efficient but also healthier for a reactionary species and prevents conflict.

Zetherin;87418 wrote:
This can certainly be true, but can't it also be true that assuming you're wrong can also hinder your growth? Perhaps assuming you're right about something will allow you to learn about a derivative topic you couldn't have reached unless you initially made the assumption. Einstein couldn't have made the breakthroughs he did if he never assumed he was right about energy and mass and their mathematical equivalence. The examples obviously go on.

---


I can see where you are going with this but I would like to point something out about your use of language. You are unsure of this. You start this point with the word "perhaps". This is the same reasoning that fear encites.

Example: Perhaps I will not succeed so what is the point of trying?

You state that Einstein could have never made his breakthroughs without the assumption of accuracy. This is not necessarily true. Still, rather than argue your point, I will clarify mine. We always assume that we are correct. There is no other way to go about things. I am not saying that we should do any differently either. As a species we live on faith. Faith that our understandings are the proper one. What I am talking about is not assuming that we are always wrong but, instead, accepting that we could be. Work off of our understanding until a different possibility presents itself.

So I am not stating that we should try to be wrong. What I am stating is that we should understand the importance of it and not only accept it when it happens but be glad of it.

Zetherin;87418 wrote:
Next, we must consider the semantics of "wrong" or "right".

1.) Example: 1+1=3. wrong

2.) Example: Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania. wrong

How do each of these answers compare even though they're both wrong? Could either of these answers be right? The second answer could, at some point in time, become right. The capital could change. Most would agree 1+1=2 is tautological though and cannot change. The point is, our usage of "wrong" and "right" differ here; in the former we are using a fixed logical system (tautology), and in the latter we are not. We must keep this in mind.


I am not speaking literally. When non-literal conversations occur, we need not drill down to the semantics of anything. It is the concepts that we are trying to grasp. It is the concept which holds the core of truth. Are you willing to accept that answer? Wink

Zetherin;87418 wrote:
Next, how do these aforementioned wrongs and rights compare to the wrongs and rights found in moral judgment calls?

3.) Example: Mary is a bad person. right or wrong?

There's a difference when we say we're wrong or right here, as there's no definitive logical system (such as mathematics) where we can evaluate our answer. Many people may think Mary is a bad person, but you may think Mary is not a bad person. Who would be right in this case, and how do wrongs and rights in examples such as these compare to examples #1 and #2?

---


See previous statement

Zetherin;87418 wrote:
Lastly, we must take our values, interests, and personalities into consideration. Why? Well, my being "wrong" about a variable calculus answer will not make me feel the same way as my being "wrong" about someone's character. Personally, I pride myself on my perception in social interaction, so I would be more grief stricken if I found out I was wrong about Mary than if I found out I was wrong about a math problem. Of course, that's just me, and everyone will vary.

---


This is my point exactly. You would be grief stricken to be wrong about Mary. But is that truly what you should feel? If you thought that Mary was a bad person and you were wrong (as defined by Your perception) then this is a chance to apologize to Mary and increase your social standings with her. Being wrong provides opportunity rather than road blocks. It is all due to perception.

Zetherin;87418 wrote:
So, then, let's tie this all up in a neat little box (I won't wrap it yet because I think I'll add more later).

  • Becoming too comfortable with being wrong can be just as harmful as being too ignorant to learn what is right.
  • Semantics must be considered -- What do we mean by "wrong" or "right; in what context are these words being used?
  • Personalities and values must be considered -- Being "wrong" or being "right" can best be understood after evaluating the individual experiencing and could mean drastically different things for different people!


To wrap mine up quickly in response:

I think your perception is wrong.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 02:31 pm
@Icon,
Icon wrote:
I can see where you are going with this but I would like to point something out about your use of language. You are unsure of this. You start this point with the word "perhaps". This is the same reasoning that fear encites.


I am unsure. I usually am, and that's one of the few things I love about myself. I thought you may understand considering you created this thread. Very Happy I'm a man that enjoys bringing potentialities to the table. I'm unsure, but I'd like my thoughts to be shared and evaluated. Maybe someone knows the truth.

Quote:
If we embrace being wrong; get comfortable with the idea, then we have a chance to interact with our error without needlessly defending it. This is not only more efficient but also healthier for a reactionary species and prevents conflict.

...

You state that Einstein could have never made his breakthroughs without the assumption of accuracy. This is not necessarily true.


Confidence is required to continue and succeed, ala my Einstein example. It was necessary, that at some point in Einstein's thought process, he assumed he was correct (which helped him continue his thoughts, a chain of progressive thoughts leading to a conclusion); this is all I meant by this example. So, I do think it's necessarily true that he never would have made his breakthroughs had he not assumed accuracy at some point in time.

Simply put, I'm stressing I don't like the idea of getting too comfortable with being wrong. We should be willing to accept that we are wrong, but I think it's perfectly alright to show that we're right sometimes -- in fact, this is one thing which allows people who are wrong to come to enlightenment! I think it's healthy to both relish in our rightness and also be comfortable with our wrongness, making sure we don't fall to either extreme (which, as I mentioned, can lead to a stagnant mind). That said, we don't always have error in our thoughts, and every thought shouldn't be considered to be potentially wrong (this would inevitably drive one insane). And have you considered that defense and contention isn't always a bad thing? Maybe some thoughts need to be "needlessly" defended in order to see the light of day.

Basically, I disagree with you that one should be glad about being wrong, but shouldn't share the same enjoyment when they're right [please correct me if I misunderstood you]. I think there's a time and place when it's fine to defend your rightness and relish in your knowing.

Quote:
So I am not stating that we should try to be wrong. What I am stating is that we should understand the importance of it and not only accept it when it happens but be glad of it.


Fair enough, and that's fine with me. I just think it's perfectly healthy to be glad about the things we're right about too. Defending something we think is right is not always wrong.

Quote:
To wrap mine up quickly in response:

I think your perception is wrong.


Don't worry, I'm feeling comfortable about my wrongness.
 
Icon
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 02:33 pm
@Icon,
When stated that way, I can agree on principle and understand your concerns.

I do not think that we should not defend what we feel is right. What I think is that we should take everything with a grain of salt and accept that there is an equally likely chance of us being wrong as there is of us being right.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 02:51 pm
@Icon,
Icon;87468 wrote:
When stated that way, I can agree on principle and understand your concerns.

I do not think that we should not defend what we feel is right. What I think is that we should take everything with a grain of salt and accept that there is an equally likely chance of us being wrong as there is of us being right.


My main concern was that you were putting too much weight on wrongness, essentially praising it, stating that we should be glad when we're wrong. Yet, you never mentioned praising rightness or relishing in success at all; you seemed to be articulating rightness as something we should not necessarily refrain from but shouldn't consider as good as being wrong. You seemed to consider that rightness only brings unneeded contention, ignorance, and negativity to individuals or groups of individuals. I didn't necessarily think this was true and just wanted to balance the tables a bit.

That said, I completely agree with what you said here:

Quote:
What I am talking about is not assuming that we are always wrong but, instead, accepting that we could be. Work off of our understanding until a different possibility presents itself.


It's what I advocate daily!
 
Icon
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 02:59 pm
@Icon,
So now that we have discussed these things and come to a clearer definition of concept, I would like to provide a rather controversial proof of concept.

I am going to preface this by saying that this is NOT a chance or opportunity to "bash" anyone nor is it a chance to make blanket statements about any particular group. Any post doing so will be reported and dealt with according to the rules of the forum. I will be watching you guys.

The Example: The current rebellion of Islam against "infedels". This is a prime example of not being able to admit that you could be wrong. This is an extreme case but also a case which I feel best shows my point. To these religious extremists who commit suicide bombings, church bombings, the 9/11 twin tower tregedy and so forth, there is no possibility of being wrong. They are so convinced of their position that they commit acts against humanity and themselves for the sole purpose of salvation.

But what if they were to see that they could be wrong? Would they still act this way? Would you be willing to sacrafice your life to something if you were capable of being wrong about it?

I want to stress that this is NOT the only example we could portray and definitely not the only current series of events based in this tragic state of affairs. I simply use this because it is the most well known in the current world. Through out history, the idea that one could not be wrong has led to the tragedies which haunt us the most and a species while, as mentioned earlier by Zetherin, the ability to accept that we could be wrong has led to some of our most prominant successes.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 10:10 pm
@Icon,
Quote:

The Example: The current rebellion of Islam against "infedels". This is a prime example of not being able to admit that you could be wrong. This is an extreme case but also a case which I feel best shows my point. To these religious extremists who commit suicide bombings, church bombings, the 9/11 twin tower tregedy and so forth, there is no possibility of being wrong. They are so convinced of their position that they commit acts against humanity and themselves for the sole purpose of salvation.


What you stated here sums up my whole angle. I don't think you should be making life or death decisions based on something that has no evidence. It is especially worse to make life or death decisions on others lives based off your beliefs. I agree completely with you Icon on this matter.
 
Caroline
 
Reply Wed 2 Sep, 2009 04:39 am
@Icon,
I think what Icon is trying to say that when we make mistakes we should be open to them being mistakes, not to be small minded and deny them. I've seen grown men on this forum who would rather insult somebody than actually consider another's point of view, not only are they closing themselves off to learning something else, (the others opinion), but they are also going backwards in their development/growth by acting like a jerk. Guys, I really think you're reading far too much into this, it is as I've just mentioned above and nothing else.

Icon, some people have not got the guts or humility to admit they are wrong, their ego is too big too and it gets in their way or they are just too afraid, who knows why, it's generally nobodies loss but their own and call me bitter but I have long ago walked away from people like that and left them to stew in their own small minded and stupid juices.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 2 Sep, 2009 05:44 am
@Icon,
Icon;87338 wrote:
It seems to me that most people hate being wrong. They hate it so much that they will defend their point to the death in many cases. It seems, however, that being wrong is one of the best things that can happen to you. As you assume that you are correct, you turn a blind eye to other options and possibilities which may, and often do, conflict with your notions of right, wrong, accurate, inaccurate and so forth. Where as the ability to understand your fault and move on provides an environment where you can "take more than one shot" at it, if you will.

So let's start the thread this way. Name three things that you are willing to accept you could be wrong about and then name three things that you "know" to be correct.


But I could be wrong about everything I believe. I am not an infallible being. (I suppose I could be wrong about that, but then, of course, I would be right that I can be wrong). But that, of course, does not mean that I am, in fact, wrong about what I could be wrong about. So, I can know (and I believe I do know) lots of things. And so do you. After all, it isn't that I could be wrong that implies I don't know something, it is that I am wrong. If I am wrong, I don't know what I know. But why would the fact I could be wrong mean that I don't know what I think I know?

Example:

I believe that I know that Washington was the first president of the United States. Now, if he was not, then of course, I am wrong, and I don't know it. But I could be wrong too. But that doesn't mean that I don't know that Washington was the first president. The fact that I could be wrong doesn't mean that I am wrong.
 
Caroline
 
Reply Wed 2 Sep, 2009 05:53 am
@Icon,
I think that when you know you are wrong but would rather not face it, is the point I am trying to make. Or even be open to the fact that you could be wrong, to contemplate other suggestions, theories, opinions etc. When you dont do this then you become very blinkered.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 2 Sep, 2009 05:57 am
@Krumple,
Krumple;87549 wrote:
. It is especially worse to make life or death decisions on others lives based off your beliefs..


On what else can we make decisions other than our beliefs?
 
Icon
 
Reply Wed 2 Sep, 2009 07:21 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;87575 wrote:
On what else can we make decisions other than our beliefs?

He did not say decisions. He said life or death decisions. There is a very distinct difference. I can make toast because it is what I believe will satisfy my hunger. That is not the same as shooting someone in the head because I believe my God would like it.

This is an ethical variance. What I trying to get acrossed is that being wrong is beneficial where as stubborn defiance is detrimental to everyone. Most of the time, you can see when someone refuses to be wrong in how they approach a situation. They will get defensive, aggressive, even insulting in order to push their point. This reaction shows that you are not only unsure but unwilling to admit that you are unsure. If you must get aggressive to defend your point, then your point holds no value of it's own.



Caroline has it right. Thank you Caroline.
 
 

 
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