I firmly believe that competence beats [doctrine/tradition/etiquette/theory].  So rather than retreat into the safety of dogma, I’d rather aggress into murky arenas that test my beliefs, and realign them with the evidence I see.


18 thoughts on “Musings

  1. Accept as little as possible on faith, and acquire the skills needed to enter the unknown and turn what is discovered there into knowledge… not belief. Let belief help “fill in the gaps”, but only until such time as knowledge can change “truth” into fact. There is a significant difference between truth and fact, in my opinion. Truth is as you see it, and it’s often colored by your beliefs. Fact is just that… fact. Objectivity and a willingness to look beyond your beliefs to see the facts are vital skills… in my opinion.

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    • Good points! I’m not sure if facts are simply facts in the ultimate sense…by that I mean where time is a construct reliant on gravity/speed/other stuff and that if you wind it back far enough the universe was condensed into a small enough piece of matter where the laws of cause and effect are possibly inapplicable. But I think within the scope of our human existence, then we can use the idea of an ultimate truth to successfully navigate our lives (unless we have to deal with crazy physics problems).

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      • Well, I’d say you’re right about time having a direct relationship with the existence of a fact. Things can and do change over time. I was just trying to point out that I think you should try to gain knowledge in as objective and unbiased way as possible – look at the facts as they are – versus perceiving the information/data/what-have-you that is discovered through the filters and bias of your beliefs. Let the information help form the paradigm rather than let the paradigm try and shape/change the information. I think I said that right O_o

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  2. I’m not completely sure. The thing about competence is that if employed only for self-aggrandizement, it can turn around and bite you when your fellow humans notice that you are taking all the cookies for yourself. I have have told students, “do not underestimate the damage that can be done to you by a relatively powerless person who hates you and doesn’t have any scruples.” That’s why etiquette is important — you don’t want enemies who will pile on while you’re not looking. Doctrine, tradition and theory tend to be designed to regulate the same factors: keeping everyone playing fair so that war, one on one or in larger groups, doesn’t break out.

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    • I think competence supersedes doctrine, tradition, and theory, and actually gives rise to them. There are countless parables where someone whose intent is effective can cut through outdated modes of action and propagate ethics (if they have a well-founded worldview). But the thing is, if there’s no competence, there’s no chance to choose either right or wrong, there are only measures to continually correct for systemic mistakes.


      • Here’s a real-life one—Spartans faced off against Athenians on Sphacteria, and relied heavily on their tradition-bound phalanx-style method of combat, but the Athenians defeated them with ranged missile fire. When the Spartans finally surrendered, they made fun of the Athenians for not fighting in a “manly” way. Instead of clinging to their dogma and venerating tradition above all, they could have set aside their pride and preconceptions and simply acknowledged that the Athenians were more competent, which have given them the possibility of responding with an effective solution, or at least withdrawing until they could.


  3. This reminds me of Alexander cutting through the gordian knot. However I feel that etiquette and tradition are important in other areas of life.

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    • I think so as well. They actually serve as springboards to effective improvisation and spontaneity, I think. The fundamentals have to be in place before one can grasp novel, nontraditional solutions.


  4. Perhaps my issue is that it may be a false dichotomy? I mean competence, being the best, is a huge advantage, while tradition is just a refinement on whatever is already there. If one says that one side is more competent, then of course tradition, if less competent, is going to be the loser. However, in cases where competence is not the issue, tradition offers certain advantages, such as predictability, in the absence of more compelling advantages.

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    • I think that’s valid; it’s not an either-or. Competence often utilizes tradition, and I know that certain cultures in business and the military traditionalize competence. Their whole culture is based around the phrase “whatever works.”


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