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FeatherlessBiped comments on [Transcript] Tyler Cowen on Stories - Less Wrong Discussion

65 Post author: Grognor 17 December 2011 05:42AM

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Comment author: FeatherlessBiped 30 December 2011 10:29:51PM 4 points [-]

Cowen's talk reminds me of something C.S. Lewis mentioned in one of his books (perhaps it was "Miracles"): what he called, "picture-thinking".

Lewis noted that when we think about God, for example, many people will think of a kindly old, Caucasian man with a long white beard, sitting in a chair somehow anchored among fluffy white clouds. They will do this even though they know that God is invisible, certainly not male, nor Caucasian.

Lewis' point was that it's OK to have the picture in your head, as long as you know it is not literally true. We can posit that the picture may be true and useful in certain other respects (for example, for teaching that God wants to love and be loved as a "father", and that the kindly old man with the beard image helps us remember that).

The same should be applied to any stories; it ought to be OK to mentally organize certain of our mental storehouse of facts and opinions by telling ourselves stories, just as long as we don't mistake the story for "the whole enchilada", nor categorically rule out some story which, on the surface, appears to conflict with it.

Just as a good artisan or technician has a well-stocked toolbox and selects his tool with forethought and uses it with care, the intellectually well-stocked thinker uses multiple tools, ideally in a conscious way.