The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Names: Bricker, Jen, – author. Title: Everything is possible: finding the faith and courage to follow . See the Glog! [Free Download] PDF eBook Anything Is Possible: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout: text, images, music, video | Glogster EDU - Interactive multimedia. Read Anything Is Possible PDF - A Novel by Elizabeth Strout Random House Trade Paperbacks | NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An.
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In Anything Is Possible, from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout, an unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss. PDF Drive is your search engine for PDF files. As of today we have 77,, eBooks for you to download for free. No annoying ads, no download limits, enjoy . and a thriving live music scene, while hundreds of student societies cover every conceivable interest. See pp 20–31 anything is possible.
In other words, we have the impression that our particular beliefs are all derived from some overarching philosophy, but the reality is that we arrive at them quite independently, and often haphazardly.
As sociologists are fond of pointing out, many of these aphorisms appear to be direct contradictions of each other. Birds of a feather ock together, but opposites attract. Absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder, but out of sight is out of mind. Look before you leap, but he who hesitates is lost. Of course, it is not necessarily the case that these beliefs are contradictory—because we invoke di erent aphorisms in di erent circumstances.
But because we never specify the conditions under which one aphorism applies versus another, we have no way under which one aphorism applies versus another, we have no way of describing what it is that we really think or why we think it.
Common sense, in other words, is not so much a worldview as a grab bag of logically inconsistent, often contradictory beliefs, each of which seems right at the time but carries no guarantee of being right any other time. The reason is that everyday life is e ectively broken up into small problems, grounded in very speci c contexts that we can solve more or less independently of one another.
If we had to explain how all our explanations, attitudes, and commonsense beliefs fit together, we would encounter all kinds of inconsistencies and contradictions. Where it does start to matter, however, is when we use common sense to solve problems that are not grounded in the immediate here and now of everyday life—problems that involve anticipating or managing the behavior of large numbers of people, in situations that are distant from us either in time or space.
This may sound like an unlikely thing to do, but in fact we do it all the time. And whenever we argue about politics or economics or the law, we are implicitly using our commonsense reasoning to reach conclusions about how society will be a ected by whatever policy or proposal is being debated.
In none of these cases are we using our common sense to reason about how we should behave in the here and now. Rather, we are using it to reason about how other people behaved—or will behave —in circumstances about which we have at best an incomplete understanding. At some level we understand that the world is complicated, and that everything is somehow connected to everything else. In this way, we can ip through the newspaper while drinking our morning cup of co ee and develop twenty di erent opinions about twenty di erent topics without breaking a sweat.
So it may not matter much that the way we reason about the problems of the world is poorly suited to the nature of the problems themselves. But ordinary citizens are not the only ones who apply commonsense reasoning to social problems. When policy makers sit down, say, to design some scheme to alleviate poverty, they invariably rely on their own commonsense ideas about why it is that poor people are poor, and therefore how best to help them.
As with all commonsense explanations, it is likely that everyone will have his or her own views, and that these views will be logically inconsistent or even contradictory. Some may believe that people are poor because they lack certain necessary values of hard work and thrift, while others may think they are genetically inferior, and others still may attribute their lack of wealth to lack of opportunities, inferior systems of social support, or other environmental factors.
All these beliefs will lead to di erent proposed solutions, not all of which can be right. Yet policy makers empowered to enact sweeping plans that will a ect thousands or millions of people are no less tempted to trust their intuition about the causes of poverty than ordinary citizens reading the newspaper.
A quick look at history suggests that when common sense is used for purposes beyond the everyday, it can fail spectacularly. As the political scientist James Scott writes in Seeing Like a State, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were characterized by pervasive optimism among engineers, architects, scientists, and government technocrats that the problems of society could be solved in the same way that the problems of science and engineering had been solved during the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution.
But as Scott points out, this scienti c aura was a mirage. In reality there was no science of planning—just the opinions of individual planners who relied on their intuition to speculate about how their plans would play out in the real world. No one doubts that men like Le Corbusier were brilliant and original thinkers. Moreover, even when these plans did succeed, they often did so in spite of themselves, as individuals on the ground gured out ways to create a reasonable outcome by ignoring, circumventing, or even undermining the plan itself.
Yet politicians, bureaucrats, architects, and regulators continue to make essentially the same mistake all the time. As the economist William Easterly has argued, the foreign aid community has been dominated for the past fty years by large, bureaucratic organizations that are in turn run by powerful individuals whose ideas about what should and should not work inevitably play a large role in determining how resources will be devoted.
Yet in spite of the trillions of dollars of aid that planners have devoted to economic development, there is shockingly little evidence that the recipients are better o for it. And sure enough, as the sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh describes in American Project, what started out as a high-minded and carefully thought-out plan to help inner-city, largely African American families rise up into the middle class became a debacle of dilapidated buildings, overcrowded apartments and playgrounds, concentrated poverty, and eventually gang violence.
Corporations are rarely as large as governments, so their failures tend not to attract the same kind of scrutiny— although the near collapse of the nancial system in — comes close. But as a number of management scholars have shown in recent years, corporate plans—whether strategic bets, mergers and acquisitions, or marketing campaigns— also fail frequently, and for much the same reasons that government plans do.
After all, two years earlier at the Davos meeting, much the same mix of businesspeople, politicians, and economists were congratulating one another on having generated astonishing levels of wealth and unprecedented stability of the nancial sector. Did anyone suspect that they had somehow taken leave of their common sense? And if not, then how exactly would it help to return to it? If anything, in fact, what the history of nancial crises, both before and after the advent of high-technology trading, ought to teach us is that—like truth in war—it is common sense, not computer models, that is the rst casualty of a nancial mania.
Bad things happen not because we forget to use our common sense, but rather because the incredible e ectiveness of common sense in solving the problems of everyday life causes us to put more faith in it than it can bear. After all, when it comes to the physical world, we also have plenty of intuition that we use to solve everyday problems—think of all the intuitive physics that is required to chase down and catch a y baseball.
For example, common sense tells us that heavy objects fall under the force of gravity. But consider the following: A man stands on a perfectly at plain holding a bullet in his left hand and a pistol, loaded with an identical bullet, in his right.
Holding both pistol and bullet at the same height, he simultaneously res the gun and drops the bullet. Which bullet will hit the ground rst? Elementary high school physics will tell you that in fact the two bullets will hit the ground at exactly the same time. But even knowing this, it is hard not to think that the bullet from the gun is somehow kept up for longer by its velocity.
The physical world is lled with examples like this that defy commonsense reasoning. Why does water spiral down the toilet in opposite directions in the northern and southern hemispheres? Why do you see more shooting stars after midnight? And when oating ice melts in a glass, does the water level go up or down? But as frustrating as it can be for physics students, the consistency with which our commonsense physics fails us has one great advantage for human civilization: It forces us to do science.
In science, we accept that if we want to learn how the world works, we need to test our theories with careful observations and experiments, and then trust the data no matter what our intuition says. And as laborious as it can be, the scienti c method is responsible for essentially all the gains in understanding the natural world that humanity has made over the past few centuries. But when it comes to the human world, where our unaided intuition is so much better than it is in physics, we rarely feel the need to use the scienti c method.
Why is it, for example, that most social groups are so homogeneous in terms of race, education level, and even gender? Why do some things become popular and not others? How much does the media in uence society?
Is more choice better or worse? Do taxes stimulate the economy? Social scientists are endlessly perplexed by these questions, yet many people feel as though they could come up with perfectly satisfactory explanations themselves.
We all have friends, most of us work, and we generally download things, vote, and watch TV. We are constantly immersed in markets, politics, and culture, and so are intimately familiar with how they work—or at least that is how it seems to us. Were it not for the intimate knowledge of our own thought processes, along with intimate knowledge of our own thought processes, along with countless observations of the words, actions, and explanations of others—both experienced in person and also learned remotely—the vast intricacies of human behavior might well be inscrutable.
Nevertheless, the combination of intuition, experience, and received wisdom on which we rely to generate commonsense explanations of the social world also disguises certain errors of reasoning that are every bit as systematic and pervasive as the errors of commonsense physics. Part One of this book is devoted to exploring these errors, which fall into three broad categories. The rst type of error is that when we think about why people do what they do, we invariably focus on factors like incentives, motivations, and beliefs, of which we are consciously aware.
As sensible as it sounds, decades of research in psychology and cognitive science have shown that this view of human behavior encompasses just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. But they do matter, as do many other apparently trivial or seemingly irrelevant factors.
If the rst type of commonsense error is that our mental model of individual behavior is systematically awed, the second type is that our mental model of collective behavior is even worse. Faced with such complexity, however, commonsense explanations instinctively fall back on the logic of individual action. Regardless of which trick we use, however, the result is that our explanations of collective behavior paper over most of what is actually happening.
The third and final type of problem with commonsense reasoning is that we learn less from history than we think we do, and that this misperception in turn skews our perception of the future.
Whenever something interesting, dramatic, or terrible happens— Hush Puppies become popular again, a book by an unknown author becomes an international best seller, the housing bubble bursts, or terrorists crash planes into the World Trade Center—we instinctively look for explanations. Moreover, because we only try to explain events that strike us as su ciently interesting, our explanations account only for a tiny fraction even of the things that do happen. The result is that what appear to us to be causal explanations are in fact just stories—descriptions of what happened that tell us little, if anything, about the mechanisms at work.
Nevertheless, because these stories have the form of causal explanations, we treat them as if they have predictive power. In this way, we deceive ourselves into believing that we can make predictions that are impossible, even in principle. Commonsense reasoning, therefore, does not su er from a single overriding limitation but rather from a combination of limitations, overriding limitation but rather from a combination of limitations, all of which reinforce and even disguise one another.
The net result is that common sense is wonderful at making sense of the world, but not necessarily at understanding it. By analogy, in ancient times, when our ancestors were startled by lightning bolts descending from the heavens, accompanied by claps of thunder, they assuaged their fears with elaborate stories about the gods, whose all-too-human struggles were held responsible for what we now understand to be entirely natural processes. In explaining away otherwise strange and frightening phenomena in terms of stories they did understand, they were able to make sense of them, e ectively creating an illusion of understanding about the world that was enough to get them out of bed in the morning.
All of which is ne. Indeed, we tend to regard the ancient mythologies as vaguely amusing. By providing ready explanations for whatever particular circumstances the world throws at us, commonsense explanations give us the con dence to navigate from day to day and relieve us of the burden of worrying about whether what we think we know is really true, or is just something we happen to believe.
The cost, however, is that we think we have understood things that in fact we have simply papered over with a plausible-sounding story. And because this illusion of understanding in turn undercuts our motivation to treat social problems the way we treat problems in medicine, engineering, and science, the unfortunate result is that common sense actually inhibits our understanding of the world.
Addressing this problem is not easy, although in Part Two of the book I will o er some suggestions, along with examples of approaches that are already being tried in the worlds of business, policy, and science.
Now, organ donation is one of those issues that elicit strong feelings from many people. It might surprise you to learn, however, how much cross-national variation there is. In a study conducted a few years ago, two psychologists, Eric Johnson and Dan Goldstein, found that rates at which citizens consented to donate their organs varied across di erent European countries, from as low as 4. Actually, what I asked them to consider was two anonymous countries, A and B.
In country A, roughly 12 percent of citizens agree to be organ donors, while in country B So what did they think was di erent about these two countries that could account for the choices of their citizens?
Being smart and creative students, they came up with lots of possibilities. Perhaps one country was secular while the other was possibilities. Perhaps one country was secular while the other was highly religious. Perhaps one had more advanced medical care, and better success rates at organ transplants, than the other.
Perhaps the rate of accidental death was higher in one than another, resulting in more available organs. Or perhaps one had a highly socialist culture, emphasizing the importance of community, while the other prized the rights of individuals.
All were good explanations. But then came the curveball.
Country A was in fact Germany, and country B was … Austria. My poor students were stumped—what on earth could be so di erent about Germany and Austria?
Or perhaps there had been some important event or media campaign in Austria that had galvanized support for organ donation. Be the first to like this. No Downloads. Views Total views. Actions Shares. Embeds 0 No embeds. No notes for slide.
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