Posts Tagged ‘Sophists’

Cognitive dissonance is one of the best established notions in psychology.  Simply put (perhaps too simply) the idea is that people in general will go to almost any length to hold onto a cherished belief, no matter how strong the evidence against it is, and no matter how irrational the attempt to do so may seem (or actually be).   In a recent posting on his blog Ben Goldacre talks about a recent article in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology that focuses on this effect in cases where subjects dismiss well-founded scientific data that contradicts their beliefs.

While reading this discussion I kept returning in memory to a session I attended at ISSA a couple of weeks ago on deep disagreement. Two of the papers presented focused extensively on strategies for resolving deep disagreements.   David Zarefsky presented a battery of strategies none of which, interestingly, involved a direct attack on the belief(s) at the heart of the disagreement.  Manfred Kraus’s proposal was that deep disagreement be dealt with by “anti-logical” reasoning after the fashion of the Sophist, Protagoras.   I’m no expert on the Sophists but as I understood the paper Kraus seemed to be suggesting that in anti-logical reasoning it’s not so much the partisans of the contradictory views that work out their disagreement as it is the audience to the dispute, who act in the role of judge.


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