Blog Post: Implications

Gerald Nosich
Mar 24, 2020 • 4y ago

{"ops":[{"insert":"Take any one of the elements of reasoning, dwell on it, and you can discover ideas and truths you were unaware of.  To consider just three of the elements: there are often deeper-rooted "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"purposes"},{"insert":"behind the purposes we explicitly avow; there are more profound "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"questions at issue"},{"insert":"that lurk behind virtually any of the questions we ask; in even our most mundane "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"concepts"},{"insert":", there are other concepts—un-explored, un-understood, misunderstood, completely un-noticed concepts—that can radically change the way we think and act.\n \nHere, I would like briefly to explore some of the implications of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"implications"},{"insert":".\n \nWe say and believe things, but we often do so without being aware of the implications of what we say or believe.  (I write “we”: I explicitly include myself among the “we.”)\n \nHere is a personal vignette: I remember reading my 8-year-old son stories from Greek mythology, and telling him that the gods were immortal. That had always seemed to make sense to me.  Of course, both my son and I knew there were in fact no Greek gods, but I at least thought I understood full well what it meant to say that they were “immortal.” Not so the 8-year-old.\nHe asked: “Does that mean they can’t die?”\nYes.\n“They can’t die no matter what?”\nRight. They are immortal. \n“Can they be wounded?”\nI had previously read him the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Iliad"},{"insert":", where both Ares and Aphrodite are wounded.  So I said, “Yes, they can be wounded.”\nSo far, we were saying just what ancient Greeks believed.  \nThen he asked, “So if they can be wounded, can they be cut up into little tiny pieces?”\nI said that that did seem to follow (“follow”—an implication.) Another implication is that if a god—Ares, say—could be cut into little tiny pieces, it seemed certain that he would then be dead.  So how could he be immortal?\n \nYou can see where this vignette is going.  There are implications to saying that someone is immortal, and those implications can get you rationally in trouble.  Though several ancient Greeks doubted or denied the existence of the gods, as far as I know none of them saw the paradoxical implications of calling them immortal.\n \nOne of the most fundamental aspects of critical thinking is actively searching for implications. A willingness to explore the implications of what we say and believe is one of the most important habits we can cultivate, in our students, in our children, in ourselves.  It affects our lives in far more profound ways than the one in the vignette.\n \nA failure to reckon with implications is something that besets both thugs and profound reformers. Deirdre Bair begins her biography of Al Capone by saying:\nThis is the story of a ruthless killer, a scofflaw, a keeper of brothels and bordellos, a tax cheat and perpetrator of \t\t frauds….  This is also the story of a loving son, husband, and father."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nShe is perplexed by what she calls the “conundrum” of how a person could embody such divergent traits.  She says that trying to understand it is like “trying to solve the most complicated puzzle imaginable.”\n \nOn a far higher plane, in the introduction to her biography of Martin Luther, Lyndal Roper says: \nI am interested in Luther’s contradictions. Here was a man who made some of the most misogynistic remarks of any thinker, yet who was in favor not only of sex within marriage but crucially that it should also give bodily pleasure to both men and women. Trying to understand this apparent paradox is a challenge I have not been able to resist."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nBoth of these authors believe there is something intrinsically interesting and difficult to understand about someone who could engage in such seemingly incompatible behaviors or who could hold such contradictory beliefs. I think that almost all of us feel something similar.  We too find this interesting and difficult to understand.\n \nBut there is another sense in which it is not difficult to understand at all.  Al Capone’s behavior is a “puzzle” only if we assume Capone is a coherent whole.  That is, only if we assume he actually explored how the implications of his actions were incompatible with one another.  Similarly, the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"specifics "},{"insert":"of how Luther believed this “apparent paradox” may be interesting, but the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"general "},{"insert":"way this happens for anyone is simple and ordinary: Believe A, and also believe B, but never explore how the implications of A and B fit together.\n \nA failure to explore the implications of our actions and our beliefs is what makes it easy to do and believe paradoxical things.  It enables hypocrisy. \n \nIt’s not just hypocrisy.  Not paying attention to implications enables a stunning amount of insensitivity to others.  Back in 2003, President Bush famously said:"},{"attributes":{"background":"white"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"background":"white"},"insert":"“There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there [in Iraq]. My answer is, bring 'em on.\" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"background":"white"},"insert":"It is likely that what he meant to do was to deter such attacks by saying that there would be retaliation. Nevertheless, saying “Bring ‘em on” carries the implication that he doesn’t mind such attacks, that he almost enthusiastically welcomes them.  A further implication (unintended, but still there) is that the attendant deaths of Iraqis and Americans is of no great consequence compared to the response it will bring. "},{"insert":"\n \nMore saliently for educators, when it comes to learning, in or outside of school, seeing implications plays an essential role. Exploring implications is a major way we come to learn and understand things.  In fact, it may be true that you can’t understand something unless you see many of its implications. You can’t understand genetically modified foods unless you see the implications (both positive and negative) inherent in them and their use: without seeing the implications, all you have is a label. You can’t understand Holden Caulfield or Charlotte in her web unless you understand the implications of what they believe and do. We say that humans are social animals, but unless you explore the implications of what that means, it is just a vague and mostly empty concept. The same holds for understanding any major idea, in the social or natural sciences, in the arts or humanities or professions.  More broadly still, there is a very real sense in which reading "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"is "},{"insert":"understanding implications. \n \nIt holds for pre-K as well as for the highest reaches of understanding.  One way of describing what Einstein discovered in the special theory of relativity is that he followed out the implications of saying that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant.  If that speed is unchanging, he realized, then it follows that time, distance, and mass are all changeable. \n \n"}]}

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{"ops":[{"insert":"The principal of my High School sent an email to all faculty threatening our jobs if we do not respond \"promptly\" to her \"commands\". This has generated an immediate uproar within a faculty that is already \"strained\" from a \"horrible\" working environment (e..g., constant threats from students, lack of discipline, berating of teachers, and so forth). Did she consider the implications of threatening the livelihood of her faculty in the midst of an economic crisis over such a trivial matter? \n"}]}

Posted by: Joseph Halter

{"ops":[{"insert":"Gerald: I appreciate the elaboration and examples of implications.\nFor clarity, I like to look at the logic of the term or concept to insure understanding and I am providing the definition from the Center for Critical Thinking:\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"\"Implications are claims or truths that logically follow from other claims or truths. Implications follow from thoughts. Consequences follow from actions.\" "},{"insert":"\nFurthermore\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"\"Implications are inherent in your thoughts, whether you see them or not. The best thinkers think through the logical implications in a situation before acting.\""},{"insert":"\nThe first thing I was struck when I read your blog was the behavior of person or thing and its reaction. I think we could separate the physical and the human sciences as different. The causes and effects of a physical science are known for many chemicals or biologies. Many are still a mystery. I am not an expert in this area of chemistry and biology so my assumptions may be inaccurate and some who are in this field can respond more intelligently than me. My point is this, cause and effect are known with certainty or more discovery is needed.\nThe study of human sciences and behaviors are quiet complex. What a person says and what they do can be quite different. To determine what the implications of one person or several can be daunting.\nIf you could elaborate on differences between the two sciences, it would be helpful.\n\nAddendum: Implications of the corona virus would be an excellent example of this element of critical thinking. The clarity, accuracy and precision of information on this new virus is amazing from numerous point of views and its harmful implications on humans and our economy now. \n"}]}