Topic: Cognition & Epistemology
TO QUESTION PREMISES OR NOT TO QUESTION THEM
I often like to play the following game in telling stories to people (either grown ups or children):
First-- I pick the title of a known tale and start telling another story with the characters of a third source. Eg.:
Puss in Boots
Once upon a time there lived three young sisters: Snow White, Goldilocks and Red Ridding Hood. Their father was a very good woodchopper who had married to an evil woman. Their stepmother made their lives miserable and forced them to do all the chores, while she kept practising her witchcraft. One day she put a spell on the the woodchopper and made him go to the market with his young daughters in order to sell them. 'We shall need the money to buy our victuals' she said. Then, the mesmerised man went to the market with his daughters...
Second-- In the middle of the story, I ask the hearers some unexpected question, like:
Who the three girls will meet on the road before they can get to the market? The Wolf or the Charming Prince?
People often got confused with this kind of game and made all sorts of guesses. It took a long time before they realised that there could be no right answer accordingly to common lore, because the story had been twisted from the beginning.
I have seen this kind of problem in scientific discussions too. People usually try to discuss the implications and the empirical testing methods employed to confirm or discard assumptions that were absurd from the start.
Indeed, people do not like to question premises, but are eager to have heated arguments on the consequences. Why?
Posted by Tony Marmo
at 01:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 9 August 2004 07:41 BST