finding balance

Should we just “”fuck nuance?

“By calling for a theory to be more comprehensive, or for an explanation to include additional dimensions, or a concept to become more flexible and multifaceted, we paradoxically end up with less clarity. We lose information by adding detail.” — Kieran Healy

This is a good point.  Nuance is messy.  I can totally see how nuance in fact can make an issue less clear, especially for the limits of the human mind.  The problem is that most issues are, in fact, extremely complex.  So while it may be so that we should be as simple as possible to not sacrifice clarity, we will also be missing out on huge swaths of the truth.  A too simple approach can be just as detrimental as one that is too complex.  There must be a balance.

setting sail for the land of nuance

The goal of this blog is to explore nuance in a modern context.  From how it’s used effectively to where it might even be counterproductive due to the time and energy that is required to fully engage the issues in a “nuanced” way.  From the standpoint of large political movements, I’d like to explore how “nuance” is possible when dealing with the “law of averages”.  Hence, as a movement grows in number, it’s members become more “average” and less likely to embrace an intellectual or nuanced position.  But can certain norms be established that at least help the “average” embrace elements of nuance (and critical thinking), even if they wouldn’t otherwise?  I’m going to consider this and look into it, but I’ll also consider the possibility that I am simply hoping for too much.

The way our societies consume information and make decisions is not conducive to nuance.  People primarily are concerned with going about their daily lives, and therefore simply do not have time to sit down and fully consider the position of all sides.  This is reasonable, and in our current age information comes fast and furious, and often times people make quick decisions based on their preconceived notions.  But if we are ever going to make the progress that is necessary to advance to a more livable world for everyone, nuance is going to be necessary.  It will be required that in order to get from here to there, our civilization, our species, must take more consideration of the issues.

I’ll be working off the assumption that the issues are, in fact, nuanced to begin with.  Therefore, I will challenge myself to look deeply into the controversies from multiple perspectives to weed out hints of “the truth”.  Here I define “truth” as something that is more or less “fact”, in the sense that it can be verified.  Although in some cases the facts won’t always be so clear, and in those situations I’ll go off good ole’ fashioned “reason” and philosophical “first principles” to guide my way.

Most importantly, if the facts change, my opinion will have to change.  That’s the “First Rule” of this blog.  However, just because the facts change does not mean I have to redefine “first principles”.  Very rarely do facts ever come into conflict with first principles, and when they do it’s usually because one has not put enough thought into how to redefine their position, without contradicting their most fundamental code of ethics.  For example, the idea that “all people are created equal” is a principled stance, and there are no facts that can override this.

transnational whistle blowing

I’m excited to have had a recent correspondence with Dr Charli Carpenter. I asked her the following question, by way of e-mail:

“I was wondering about your thoughts on the efficacy of transnational whistle blowing like we saw with Snowden and Wikileaks.

The amount of information in these leaks that was released to the public was substantial. Since we lack the tools to carefully assess whether the overall impact of these leaks was truly worth it (intended consequences + unintended consequences), should whistle blowers show more restraint in how much secret information they release for just anybody to see?

Is there really any way we can truly measure the impact of massive leaks with so much unknown in terms of how the information might get used? Simply saying they are justified because, you know, liberty, seems fairly insufficient to me. ”

She responded and said that she thought the question was interesting, and that she would love to read more on it if I had anything. Unfortunately, I do not, so i’m going to do some research and see if this is a topic worth exploring further.

the evolution of understanding

Has anyone ever been “fully” right, and if they have, what does that look like?  I know I’m not right 100% of the time, I’m just not so certain where I’m wrong.  If I knew I were wrong, I’d not hold those views to begin with (assuming there is not an incentive to dig my heels into the sand), which means I’m holding some percent of incorrect views out of ignorance, and due to limited time, and lack of information,  I’ll probably die a very wrong man.

This problem is compounded by the fact that large aspects of the truth are grey, so it’s a guessing game, and your guess is, to some extent, as good as mine.  That’s not to say we don’t know certain things are factual, but even the facts can be interpreted differently for different reasons.

For that reason, I assume that, on any given issue, the other side is some percent right, and therefore, I’m some percent wrong.  The game then, is to maximize my “rightness”, but that requires a certain bit of humility as well as the extra energy required to read viewpoints that may challenge a comfortable worldview.  And that, my friends, is not as easy as it sounds, but it’s why I’ve created this blog.  To explore the nuance of things, and to try to discover some truth along the way.