Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I Am Confused About Being Confused

One of my standard lines is "I am confused."  In twitter discussions, this is often treated as weakness--that I am a simpleton or somehow otherwise flawed because I don't see the situation as clearly as some advocate thinks I should.  But admitting confusion is, I think, an important step to learning and figuring something out.

That confusion is often created by others offering up contradictory statements--characterized by conflicting logics or by some form of hypocrisy or by some form of conflation of two different dynamics or by something else.  Recognition of contradiction can be met with all kinds of responses, but my "I am confused" is essentially suggesting that more thinking is required by me or by the advocate or by both.  Maybe that causes the advocate to be confused or to be upset.  Ooops.

Again, I think confusion is a healthy recognition that one needs to think more, pushing one out of one's comfortable cognitively closed boxes in one's head.  Indeed. when I taught Intro to IR, I vowed in my first class that the purposed of the course was to confuse the students.  That my job was not provide them with a single point of view, but with multiple ones with conflicting assertions about the nature of International Relations.  The idea was to provide the students with multiple tools to understand IR, so that down the road they could have multiple tools to understand events they observe. 

In short, I think too much confidence in the clarity of the world is a problem, as people refuse to recognize the complexities and as they refuse to acknowledge the tradeoffs.  Simple adherence to an ideology or point of view is far more comfortable than confusion--mostly by assuring the person that additional thinking is not required.

Am I being clear here or am I just making other folks confused?  If the latter, join the club.

PS  There is no deliberate subtweeting here.  Blogging today was inspired by a most friendly twitter conversation, but this is something I have been thinking about for sometime.  Or maybe it was inspired by my altered sleep cycle.

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