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Descartes to Yogi Berra

When You Come to the Fork in the Road Take It

By: David Zaig - 08/19/2014

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Self Portrait by David Zaig on view at the Rudd Art Museum.
Self Portrait by David Zaig on view at the Rudd Art Museum.
Frans Hals portrait of Rene Descartes.
Frans Hals portrait of Rene Descartes.
The philosopher Yogi Berra.
The philosopher Yogi Berra.
David Zaig drawings.
David Zaig drawings.

Descartes expounded the idea of the mind-body, dualism; that is the body is a separate entity from the mind: mental and material.

Then the baseball player philosopher Yogi Berra said: There are some people who, if they don't already know, you can't tell 'em.”

Descartes’ motto was Cogito Ergo Sum, I think therefore I am, Yogi Berra’s I make you laugh therefore I am. And some of us today would say I am curious to know therefore I am. Each of the above is a product of the knowledge that was available at that period of history.

Today the most extreme dualists’ are the religious fanatics, followed, unknowingly, by most people. The reaction to my previous article is a good example of this. There is a rampant tendency to hang on to one’s own preconceived ideas. And one might add, fear and lack of curiosity for the unfamiliar. However, many researchers presently have discredited this kind of mentality and assumptions; that our beliefs are immutable.

In his book “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” to paraphrase Ariely: The prevailing view of human nature, to a great extent shared by policy makers, non-professionals and everyone else is that our minds have the ability to reason perfectly for our well-being. These assumptions have found their way into society where politics, the arts, economics, and more, are predicated on the idea of rationality—we believe that our decisions are rational. However, the assumption of rationality is not supported by empirical evidence. An important observation of studying irrationality is that our irrational behavior is neither random nor senseless. Irrationality happens the same way again and again, even though we are made aware of the eminent mistakes we are about to be making, and hence, is predictable. Understanding how we are predictably irrational can help us improve our, decision making and change the way we live for the better.

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra

What I am really talking about, is, primarily, our tendency to voice opinions with absolute certainties, and without data to back them up.

For instance, here is a reader responding to my previous article, “...I don't think that is true, but real communication comes via the liberal arts-- literature, in particular-- because the realm of values and the subjective sense of self is what make us human...”

The comment above is discussed eloquently in What Science Offers the Humanities: Integrating Body and Culture by Edward Slingerland. Here is a quote from a review of his book by Ralph Harrington, Ph.D.

“...humanities academics are locked into self-perpetuating games of linguistic theorization that have no engagement with the real world; the humanities have shut themselves away both from the world of everyday life and the realm of other disciplines of human knowledge, above all the natural sciences...”

And then, this is the reply I got from the reader above, after I suggested he read Edward Slingerland book: “Thanks but no thanks. I tried but gave up and returned to my book. But I believe the deepest thinkers see them, science and the humanities, as aspects of the same delusion or illusion that we know or can know the world we are born into. An illusion of truth, I would call it, without which human life and culture would be impossible, or not worth living.”

My reply. It seems to me that your refusal to read the review of What Science Offers the Humanities: Integrating Body and Culture, shows fear and lack of curiosity for the unfamiliar.

If my head does not get clogged up, I might unclog some ideas about subjectivity, truth, and the answers to everything.

I never said most of the things I said.” Yogi Berra

Watch the following, The Urge to solve video, to see how we aresometimes not in charge of our decision making.

Selective attention test.

Reader Comments
From "Stephen Rifkin"
09-04-2014, 07:15 pm
There are schools of teaching the humanities, schools of literary theory, schools of schools. Then there are the texts we live by. The books, pictures, music, movies, stories, poems. They remain. They wait for us. They are not fads. They are the classics. We learn from them to be human.
From "Jane Hudson"
08-21-2014, 07:29 pm's like the 'horns of the dilemma' problem where there seem to be two choices. If you opt for one you get stuck on that 'horn'. Being able to carry complexity within the dynamic of time is key. I am very interested in time as a construct. Keith Moxey's Virtual Time is a very complelling thesis. He is Art History Prof. at Columbia.
From "David Zaig"
08-21-2014, 04:19 pm
By this sentence, “And some of us today would say I am curious to know therefore I am.” I meant that today, unlike Descartes’ time, there is no excuse not to take advantage of the important knowledge in so many fields that is now available to us. Dan Ariely, and many other researcher like him, have shown that there are hidden forces that shape our decisions—we are unconsciously influenced by our surrounding, and people around us.
From "Enid"
08-20-2014, 05:18 pm
Everything everyone does is down to problem solving - whether an intelligent or unintelligent person, or whether the problem is very small (eg how do I cut this in half?) or very big. Even animals solve problems. - Even creativity comes down to problem solving in one way or another - we have to think. - You have to bring it right down to the simple cogito ergo sum - to say 'I am curious to know' is a secondary thing and only part of some peoples' existence. You might as well say 'I like cakes, therefore I exist'. - In the commercial world, even, people sit down in board rooms to collectively solve problems, and there are a whole lot of 'office speak' phrases built around this activity. They have reduced problem solving to a formula. - The way problems are solved matters. What happened to lateral thinking? And awareness? Or are these concepts out of date now? I do not like wrapping things up in 'academic' hoo-ha! Or have I missed the point?
From "david zaig"
08-20-2014, 07:27 am
Jane, your comment is interesting, but I would like to hear more.
From "Jane Hudson"
08-19-2014, 01:38 pm
Rationality suggests a singular consequence. All other options discarded for the sake of a clear, prescribed outcome. Deleuze suggests a rhizomatic complexity where paths to any end are multiple with no fixed origin.
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