Avoid News

News is the paradigm case of doxa. Obviously, one must approach it critically and carefully, dianoietically if at all. In a hyper-saturated media environment, we need to cultivate ascetic forms of response. I came across the following essay by Rolf Dobelli, entitled “Avoid news” that I think is quite thought provoking.

Incidentally, I am a fan of Dobelli’s book, The Art of Thinking Clearly.

8 thoughts on “Avoid News

  1. I read the article and found myself in agreement with his doxa. Though it seemed the arguements are more felt and from a bias, a worldview which I may share with Mr. Dobelli. I mean to give it more thought over the next month. In the spirit of the doxa I am giving up the news for January. No Journal, Times, etc. And in their place I shall read a book. The question is which book? I felt like it should be a book which talks of things I look for from the news, but honestly I’m not sure why I read the news. But at least to feel informed about the world. Whatever that means. So if you have a suggestion or recommendation…

    I’ll let you know at the end of the month if I feel better about the world. Right now I am very pessimistic about the future so we’ve a good bit of work to improve my state of mind.

    • David,

      I think most people in every age suffer from the bias that things are getting worse all the time. I do think that is a natural human bias, and it is one that I suffered from myself. A few reasons why we extrapolate negatively:
      1. We romanticize the past so that our view of the present suffers in comparison.
      2. We are naturally more sensitive to negative stimuli than positive and extrapolate every new discomfort into a historical trend.
      3. We devalue the actions/intentions of others in relation to our own, and, since the direction of the world is more governed by the multitudinous “others” than by our own actions, we tend to think it is being incompetently directed.
      4. We tend to overestimate the extent to which the world is controlled by human intention.
      I think understanding that we have these biases is a first step in overcoming them.

      A few books:
      THE ART OF THINKING CLEARLY by Rolf Dobelli (previously mentioned) — a terrific survey of human biases;
      FUTURE BABBLE by Dan Gardner — about our (in)ability to project the future from the past/present;
      THE PROGRESS PARADOX: HOW LIFE GETS BETTER WHILE PEOPLE FEEL WORSE by Gregg Easterbrook — the subtitle gives it away.

      • I’m definitely joining the Middlemarch reading. And I’m reading Out of the Silent Planet, Philosophical Fragments and something by Melissa Fay Greene. So I may save the Art of Thinking Clearly for February. Or I may despair of the Kierkegaard and change up.

  2. Great essay. Seems like I remember someone saying People who don’t read the paper every day are generally more informed then those that do, Twain? (gota get my memory fixed, long out of practice using that thing in my head)

    Any way loved the article. This isn’t just news its human instinct/behavior concerning every thing we form our opinions on when we don’t consider information objectively. Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” Great quote ill add to my collection. (many more wonderful key points as well)

    Iv been following (not participating) and argument about Bill and Hams debate. Which I wish could watch myself. In following this lay conversation however I notice that both sides 1) Miss apposing arguments by preconceived notions about the statements 2) Unwillingness to consider with an open mind 3) Use arguments of which the concept they obviously don’t understand 4) Go on long rants about many different things which perpetuate longer rants which none of the points of the previous are addressed except by simply stating the opposite. 5) seems the conclusion for each are already clear, Why debate then? I assume the force of opinion is more important then learning. (list goes on)

    My prime interest here is how do we go from either a desensitized state or over valuing our opinion (our fact) to excepting our ignorance and searching honestly for truth? For me it was primal, I was forced by nature and was willing to except. What are the other means in which this can be done?

    Woody- “I think understanding that we have these biases is a first step in overcoming them” In other words what are the various ways in which we come to this understanding. Great response to David. As always I love how you can take massive quantities of information and condense into a few notes.

  3. Epistemologist: I’m glad you liked the article. I don’t know what the Bill and Hams debate is but I can guess *how* the debate was waged without knowing the *what*. You wrote, “My prime interest here is how do we go from either a desensitized state or over valuing our opinion (our fact) to excepting our ignorance and searching honestly for truth? … What are the other means in which this can be done?” As it turns out, I think your question is equivalent to the one about overcoming the limitations of opinion/doxa that I take to be the chief teaching of the Republic. In dealing with doxa, one has to understand two very important things, both of which I learned from Plato: (1) that doxa is not, and can never be, knowledge -AND- (2) that knowledge is attained by going through doxa, never around it. Hopefully, if you stick with this blog, I can make both of those two things convincing to you.

  4. That’s encouraging. in the article I just wrote, the theory of fact, but will publish after the journey series, I purposed that information with out opinion could be a small kind of knowledge. with the idea that just not having an opinion can lay a foundation for a more complete kind of knowledge. and the second was my practice of internal debate where I examin my opnion about something and learn the posit argument to defeat myself, then vice versa and repeat till all opnions have been exhausted. sooo maby im on the right track?

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