Friday, March 18, 2022


I don't know whether the reviewer or Jonathan Gottschall is correct about Gottschall's recent book The Story Paradox. The premise sounds intriguing, though perhaps he handled the material badly.

But I can tell you one thing from the article at Quillette that JG wrote defending himself. That guy knows how to write and how to construct a logical argument. It's fun to read, and I am ready to grant him the advantage right out of the gate.

His premise is that we are story-making creatures - which I have said here, said many times in conversation, and is not a controversial idea - but that it has a dark side, in that it prevents us from abandoning bad ideas once we have a story to surround them.  This sounds spot on, and explains to me why the same knuckleheads keep asserting the same terrible ideas even after good challenges have been raised.  It sounds like the milder, less psychotic version of the paranoia- readiness I have described to you many times over the years here. The solidity of the false story may be very strong in the non-psychoitc as well.

If anyone has read the book, let me know what you think.


David Foster said...

I read part of it...gave up when I got to an extended and unsupported rant against Trump, who he calls "an inspired satire of the crudest elements of the American character." On the other hand, he refers to the current president of China as a Platonic philosopher-king, "a person who's been cultivated throughout life by a council of elders to rule with maximum rationality."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Good to know. If you get to the bottom of this article of Gottschalk's, you can tell he has been, and probably still is, a reliable lefty who has come under criticism recently for stating the woke lefties might be just as dangerous, or even worse. It is a common story these days, especially at Quillette, which has many people who still consider themselves left or center-left.

The woke treat defectors even worse than opponents, it seems.

Kevin said...

These are thoughtful replies, thank you. It’s interesting how they all seem to converge, which isn’t usual but might indicate something. Maybe there’s more to this than the ballyhooed ‘Arc of History bending…’.
There is even absence of an invariable when present contradictory past contributor. Unnamed, or this contribution would be unworthy and deserving chastisement. A little.

Kevin said...

My mistake. The previous response was to follow Is Solving This Problem Wise? thread

Jonathan said...

The "story paradox" seems to be a corollary of the pattern fallacy that's seen in scientific research and finance. In most areas of human endeavor there is a natural tendency for researchers to overfit data to find what they are looking for.

For people who want to avoid fooling themselves and being fooled by others, there is no substitute for a broad education that includes the study of history to get an idea of how human plans can go awry, the study of scientific methods and basic statistical analysis, and the study of human behavioral biases. It's a tall order.