Friday, January 23, 2015

Perceving vs. Persuading

(Today is the 10 Year Anniversary of Blog)

I challenged a work colleague the other day on a "law" he quoted in a presentation.  I'd read about and heard this "law" quoted several times, and each time it came up it struck me as not being true while being routinely accepted as "conventional wisdom."  The disconnect was significant enough that I launched a friendly email to my co-worker regarding my concern that our collective technical community is operating with some bad code in our mental operating systems.  In other words, we are operating on bad logic which is very ironic in that we are all in the software business.  Software doesn't work without sound logic. 

What I found even more interesting than what appears to be buggy code accepted by a bunch of software engineers was how my colleague responded to my friendly challenge of this so-called "conventional wisdom."  He wrote:
"I enjoy a good debate with valid, sound arguments to understand philosophical points of view, so long as we don't get stuck in a rabbit hole. The key there for me is understanding other points of view, not convincing others of mine."
Not only are we in the software industry, but we are also sales engineers.  So, this idea of understanding without persuading was quite surprising to me.  I'm a professional persuader.  I operate on the premise that if something is true, then why would I not want other people to share this truth?  If there is empirical evidence that what I believe is not true, I hope my friends will not let me persist in a delusion!  I sincerely hope someone would care enough about me to help me debug my faulty mental model, even if it might create some relational friction.  I not only want bug free code in my electronic computing devices, but I also want bug free computing in my mental computing device.

What I believe is going on here is related to what I originally wrote about back in 2008 and revised in Truth Trumps Tolerance combined with the post-modern view of relativism.  If one adopts a relativist view of truth, then it is "not nice" to argue against another person's point of view because their "truth" is true for them, and any effort to disabuse them of that notion comes off as a power play.  This is the problem with the (mistaken) notion that truth is not absolute.

The very first blog entry on this web site which I wrote 10 years ago today links through what I call my mini-treatise on truth.  I've invested 10 years here in this blog format, and since 1999 on this domain, because Truth matters.  I get what my work friend is saying.  I want to understand the point of view of others, but only insofar as their point of view is helping correct errors in my own so that what I believe is in conformance with reality.  If I discover someone else is persisting in a delusion, then by the Golden Rule, I want to help them Discover the Truth since that is what I would want them to do for me.


  1. Right on! I would argue that truth is so non-proprietary that even the Supreme Being can't own it.

  2. Cary - your first comment in my blog was back in 2007 on my 2nd blog entry from 2005 here: - has your God concept changed over the last 8 years? I'm curious if you're still a theist. Seems you are as you mention the Supreme Being. But from your other comment and our previous dialog (and your book) I recall that you reject the Bible as being "God's Word", right?

  3. Correct - sorta. There was a time when the Bible was God's Word to me. i.e. Reading, then studying the Bible took me closer to God than I had been previously. But then I started doing what the Bible said to do. I cultivated a one on one with Jesus - as I understood Jesus, of course. The more I did of that, the more discrepancies I found between BibleJesus and HolySpiritJesus. And the more I came to trust HolySpiritJesus.

    Decades later, I came to realize that I don't want to live among forgiven sinners. I want to live among people who want and get only what they deserve. Therefore I realized that I didn't want grace; I wanted what I deserved. I remained technically a Christian until HolySpiritJesus told me it was time to move on.