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Why We Need to Look at Sources

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: February 21, 2006
Latest Update: February 21, 2006

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Index of Topics on Site Our Sources Often Reveal Our Unstated Assumptions

We often straight our beliefs and values as non-negotiable lines in the sand over which we will fight. These are things we care about. These are the things we fight to protect. They are laden with affect for us.

To understand better what that means, read Hall, Levels of learning and Affect.

Values and beliefs are social constructs. They're not things we can see or touch. They are world views, taken in part from our culture, in part from our religion or not-religion, in part from our temperament or personalities, and in part dictated by political restraints. They are an amalgam (a mixture of different elements) of things we have been taught and things we have learned from experience and things that came to us out-of-awareness. This is par excellence a description of an informal way of knowing. And that tells us that lots of affect will be involved.

When Hall tells us that the most affect is associated with the informal level of learning or social construction of concepts and ideas, he is telling us that we respond instinctively with emotion to any challenge to what we have learned at the informal level. This explains why a child comes home and tells his parents they don't know how to do arithmetic because that's not the way his teacher did it. If he has struggled with his teacher to learn the technique she chose to use, he is proud of what he now knows, even if that knowledge is incomplete and/or imperfect. But when a parent chooses the technique he or she remembers for that arithmetic problem, the child is seeing that someone else doesn't agree with the cherished way he struggled so hard to learn. He takes it personally. He responds in defense of what "he knows,"

Each of us takes great pride in what we "know." This is a very uncertain world in which things are always changing, and we cannot know what to expect. What I "know" is at least mine. No one can take it away from me. I "know" the earth is round. So when astro physicists and particle physicists tell me that they now believe that they must train experts in both thes fields of largest bodies and smallest bodies because theys suspect that the solar system as we experience it may actually be two-dimensional, or flat, with gravity the only thing that can escape the plane by slithering off the edge, those physicists just told me almost nothing is "trustowrthy, honest, stable, something you can count on not slipping out from under you."

That means that the constant discovery of new knowledge threatens almost everything I know. That's scary. I need something to hold on to. That's where worldviews like "God, family, country, in that order" come into play. I "know" I can trust in those no matter what. So if anyone makes any suggestion that I'm wrong in any of those beliefs, socially constructed as they are, I transfer all this uncertainty and the loss of trustworthiness and stability that can't seem to be held on to, to the people who attack "God, family, country," as the last safe and stable things in my "world." This is called "transference" in clinical psychology.

If you have a little time, try this transference exercise by John Suler, at Rider University. I think his explanation may help you grasp the extent to which transference enters into much of our communication.

To get past such transference and to allay some of the affect involved, we need to move the discussion to the technical level of learning and affect. One plausible way to do that is to reframe the discussion (Lakoff on reframing.)



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