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The "What If" game

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Interbane

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The "What If" game

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DH: "Furthermore, conjuring the ridiculous notion that I am spuriously attempting to find "nearly infinite connections across all subjects, and implications by the millions for every topic in discussion on this site" truly baffles me."This reply made me think of something. DH: "If we see humility as""If we see humility as... "I could end that sentence in numerous ways, all of which take on a different meaning, and all of which are every bit as rational as any other. It is a good thought experiment to play the 'what if' game, and it also shows that there are countless 'what ifs' having to do with every topic and every event. But who's to say which one is more true? Or is it impossible to pick between them, since there could be an unlimited number of them, and we're unable to think of every one? Do we not play the 'what if' game at all, since there's no real response to such questions?It's not even necessary to say 'what if', or 'if', in order to create a sentence that is one amidst countless others. Complexity is a key factor here. It's very difficult to talk of subjects such as complex social structures and explain the causes and effects without having a well fleshed out starting point. Even when the conversation tends toward a topic of greater complexity, you have to be careful about the complexity of your answers, or the meaning may crumble. Complex topics with complex answers take a book or more to clarify the intent and meaning in most cases, and in doing so usually start with a simple foundational concept. Edited by: Interbane at: 2/7/06 1:30 am
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Re: The "What If" game

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"What if"This question can be used to great effect in certain ways. If I were to ask you "what would you do if a guy attacked you?" you would probably play out the situation in your mind and run down your response to the situation in your answer.Now what would you do if I responded with "What if the guy had a knife?" your answer would undoubtedly change to accommodate the new threat.The "what if" game is useful when attempting to prepare for a situation not yet experienced. On the other hand I do agree that this method of thought can become unnecessarily complex and in many cases it offers no useful information, or course of action. Later
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Re: The "What If" game

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Frank: "This question can be used to great effect in certain ways."It sure can, and I actually have an incident that comes to mind where playing the 'what if' game has greatly helped me.Frank: "On the other hand I do agree that this method of thought can become unnecessarily complex and in many cases it offers no useful information, or course of action."It is not unnecessarily complex. When you use it with topics of complexity, however, you have to be careful, because like you said, it's very easy for it to offer no useful information.
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Re: The "What If" game

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I think asking "What if..." is very important in making sense of the world and our place within it. I think it challenges our assumptions, presuppositions, biases and axiomatic non-negotiables...all of which can lead to greater clarity and less prejudice in our pictures of the world.I think we operate upon many subconscious axioms which we simply don't see until we are asked to consider an alternative perspective. We are like fishes in water who don't realize we are wet until we are placed on dry land. Asking "What if..." forces us to examine the sea of biases that we are largely and unknowingly submerged within.Likewise, when facing pressure from authority to accept the party line, the reigning dogma, the family script...asking "What if..." can be an act of sedition and revolutionary; a liberatory practice.
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Re: The "What If" game

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I agree with most of that. While reading someone else's post, I ask myself 'what if' countless times. My parents used to get so angry at me when I was little for asking "what if" all the time.DH: "I think we operate upon many subconscious axioms which we simply don't see until we are asked to consider an alternative perspective."I agree to an extent, but there are very many alternate perspectives in the context of my first post. So many in fact, that to pick one to commit to text and post would be silly without the disclaimer that it is only a thought experiment. Thought experiments are good, don't get me wrong, but I think you should label them as such.
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Re: The "What If" game

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Some "what ifs" irritate the heck out of me. It seems to me that there needs to be a certain minumum level of plausibility before it is reasonable to persue, or at least to ask someone else to persue, a hypothetical. I spend an inordinate amount of time talking, arguing, and debating in the Religion chat rooms. Variations of Pascal's Wager are common... "But what if you DO go to hell for not beleiving in my brand of lunacy?" Of course Pascal is easily refuted; what if God wants us all to be atheists? But the approach itself, like agnosticism in it's contemporary meaning, irritates me. No, I do not wish to entertain "what if" there is a god to go down that path with you, because there ISN'T. No more than, well actually LESS than, "But what if Osama Bin Ladin comes to your house for dinner?" If you make yourself really small, you can externalize virtually everything. Daniel Dennett, 1984
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Re: The "What If" game

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Well said Jeremy. In arguments, it's annoying, but at other times, daydreaming down different paths and saying 'what if' to various things is constructive. I used to work on Nukes in the Air Force, and I'd frequently ask myself "what if this went wrong, or that broke, or someone got hurt doing this...", and it helped prepare me in case of a real emergency.
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Re: The "What If" game

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Interbane: Thought experiments are good, don't get me wrong, but I think you should label them as such.I think thought experiments are crucial when struggling to imagine a world beyond the one we are in: if we believe the way things are now ordered is not the only way, that structures can change, and that power and control do not have to be the way they always have been. Asking "What if..." unsettles and upsets the dominant paradigm, no matter the field of inquiry.In other words, "What if..." is not merely an intellectual exercise, but a political act. It can also be the first step in the existential journey of self-creation. Furthermore, it can be a poetic attempt at applying various aesthetic lenses to one's circumstances or projects.
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Re: The "What If" game

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DH: "Asking "What if..." unsettles and upsets the dominant paradigm, no matter the field of inquiry."If the only goal is to upset the dominant paradigm, then asking what if is a good way to do this. But there are so so many possible what if's, that I can't see how they are constructive. They don't really add conjecture or information, it's not positive feedback. That's because there are so many mutually exclusive what if's, that one can't be singled out to work with. The sheer number of alternative what if's makes any one of them improbable. Some may be true, but you can't distinguish the needle in the haystack with any reliability. So to ask 'what if' may be good to challenge a paradigm or concept, but it does little to add or change it in a positive way. Perhaps the question may change it in a positive way, but the path to that change is through the unsettling that comes first.DH: "It can also be the first step in the existential journey of self-creation."I don't think it's the best place to start, but it might be a good habit when you're looking for what's wrong. It can't really be a constructive thing, since it's unreliable due to how many different 'what if's are.
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