Occasionally, I visit this page on logical fallacies at Wikipedia. I want to commit every fallacy possible and have to make sure I don’t pass any over. But, this time I looked to see if there was a fallacy related to egocentrism.
My curiosity stemmed from conversations over the years with two of my sisters. I noticed that their observations and interpretations nearly always came from the perspective their personal experiences and how they were affected. The closest fallacy I found at Wikipedia for egocentrism was mind projection.
It occurs when someone thinks that the way they see the world reflects the way the world really is, going as far as assuming the real existence of imagined objects. That is, someone’s subjective judgements are “projected” to be inherent properties of an object, rather than being related to personal perception. One consequence is that others may be assumed to share the same perception, or that they are irrational or misinformed if they do not.
Looking beyond Wikipedia, I found some other interesting material. An article on egocentrism as Jean Piaget originally saw it and then expands on that.
Egocentrism, a concept derived from Jean Piaget’s (1951) theory of cognitive development, refers to a lack of differentiation between some aspect of self and other. The paradigm case is the failure of perspective-taking that characterizes young children who are unable to infer what another person is thinking, feeling, or seeing. Unable to infer accurately the perspective of others, the egocentric child attributes to them his or her own perspective instead. The inability to decenter from one’s own perspective results in egocentric confusion of social perspectives.
But egocentrism is a broader concept that encompasses a number of additional curiosities of early cognitive development, including realism (the confusion of objective and subjective), animism (confusion of animate and inanimate), and artificialism (confusion of human activity or intentions with natural causes). What these forms of egocentrism have in common is the inability to differentiate subjective and objective perspectives.
A blog called “REbecca’s Dystopia, I have to like that name, delves into the subject.
An aspect of psychology which is as interesting as language itself is the way we misunderstand each other’s thoughts, feelings, and words. Ideally, we should be able to see things from the perspective of others; “The Principle of Optimal Design” (POD) suggests that in communication, cooperative speakers should design their language in a way that considers the knowledge and the thoughts of the listener. That is, language should be grounded in a mutual knowledge which the individuals share; cooperative conversation follows the POD.
There is always a divergence of perspective; individuals have private thoughts about things that are not present and hold different conceptualizations/memories of their own experiences. No two individuals experience exactly the same thing, which means there is always a difference of perspective, even if only slightly. It’s interesting to consider; how does perspective taking change over the course of a conversation? What difficulties arise from egocentric biases? How does perspective taking develop in children?
At The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, they list Top 20 Logical Fallacies. My favorite example there is in the begging the question:
In my appearance on the Dr. Oz show I was asked – what are alternative medicine skeptics (termed “holdouts”) afraid of? This is a double feature of begging the question. By using the term “holdout” the question assumes that acceptance is already become the majority position and is inevitable. But also, Oz begged the question that skeptics are “afraid.” This also created a straw man (see below) of our position, which is rather based on a dedication to reasonable standards of science and evidence.
How many times have we heard questions of this nature in TV/radio interviews? The left has made a living out of referring to homophobia in the gay marriage debate and other gay related issues. Do win a tin cup if you beg the question more than anyone else?
One of my favorite aspects of blogging and commenting lies in the process, learning to argue and communicate effectively. Recognizing valid and invalid arguments increases ones understanding of issues. I like to visit the fallacy pages to help keep my mind sharp and my arguments good. Mental exercise. But, I do not believe that all debate and discussion should be limited to strict rules of logic. But, one needs to be aware of logic vs non-logic and the potential consequences of both. Being able to see outside of one’s self is an important part of that, although I’m not going to make a huge logical argument for that right now. Some things are just self evident as in the Declaration of Independence.