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November 24th, 2018
Conclusion comes from the word ‘conclude’, this word comes from Latin and means “completely” + “shut”.
The word ‘shut’ implies some kind of barrier with an opening. We might visualize a container or a physical border like a fence or the walls of a house. In such a visualization, a ‘conclusion’ would be like locking up the house for the night. Closing the door, and ensuring that it stays that way.
But the word – conclusion - as we use it primarily refers to concepts. The container here is our mind and the ideas that propagate as thoughts and ultimately give rise to actions and behaviors. To conclude is to shut off one’s mind from other ideas that are different from the ones that already have their home made in our head.
We’re all familiar with how arrestingly difficult it can be to change such a person who has already come to a conclusion. Unless the hinges on their mental door are well oiled and they keep an open door policy, chances are we need a talented locksmith, or worse, and more commonly, we try to use brute-force to knock the door down.
Why do we lock the doors to our homes at night? It’s a silly question, we do so in order to keep ourselves safe. We imagine and fear intruders who would walk right in and do all sorts of terrible things. While physical violence here is at the top of the list for potentially good reasons to keep the door locked at night, we might want to wonder why such fear and locked conclusiveness extends to our mental world. Does a new idea really present the risk of doing some kind of physical violence to our mind? The answer is yes. We can mentally swallow an idea so bad that it has ramifications in our behavior that could lead to our own harm. This is a very scary thing, but it has an important stipulation. That idea has to become a conclusion, meaning, once that idea is through the door, the door gets locked and now we are somewhat trapped in the house of our mind with the bad idea. As many scary movies like to remind us, the only thing worse than having an intruder in the house is being trapped in the house with such an intruder. But that stipulation is our saving grace in such a situation. Just as the open-door policy creates the risk of potentially bad ideas coming into the mind’s field, having no lock and well oiled hinges means that we are never trapped in our own mind with a bad idea.
The mental habit of coming to conclusions, to shutting the door and locking it feels like a safe idea, but just as in a real world situation, it can turn out that we create our own trap.
In this framework it seems like there are two options:
Either we shut the door and pray that we don’t find ourselves trapped with a bad idea that has found some way to get in.
we keep an open door policy and experience a much greater diversity of concepts, both good and bad.
But is there an inbetween here? Might it be better to have temporary conclusions, as though shutting the door for some time, but not locking it and throwing away the key?
Interestingly, there aren’t really any conclusions in science. There are theories, which are similar. They are ideas, but they constantly keep the door open for new evidence that might disprove the theory. This process of science seems innately devoid of fear, but this open-door policy is what ultimately makes it so effective. If a theory does not break down under new evidence, then it remains useful. More importantly however, new evidence that does break a theory always leads us to a greater understanding of reality. The process of discovering evidence to disprove a theory is literally dispelling illusions, giving rise to ideas that are more useful and more faithful to the nature of reality.
And isn’t this what we should want in an idea? Usefulness?
What does it mean to cling to a useless idea or an illusion? Are we perhaps forfeiting a better life and a higher state of well-being for ourselves and others by holding onto a useless idea that we keep safeguarded from new evidence that might adversely effect it?
Perhaps the monster that is trying to break in is doing so because it is desperate to help us.
To conclude, it smells as though all conclusions are temporary, or should be. Such a conclusion, however, is probably also temporary, and serves here as an organizing principle for testing strategies.
We come to a certain conclusion about a set of ideas that form a strategy, shut the door on more influences and test the strategy.
If it works out, then great, and if it doesn’t, we’d naturally want to do the opposite of a conclusion and open the door again, to more and potentially better ideas. Best to keep the hinges well oiled.
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