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Masterful piece ... especially these three thoughts:

"... the fit between human cognition and the real world is no guarantee for command of the truth ...."

I have long been of the opinion that just because we think is no great reason to expect that we should be able to understand everything; if that were not true there would be no room for faith in this or any other existence. Always, it seems to me, we are fated to see "through a glass darkly".


"Adaptive competence (like following the right rules and behaving in a ceratin way) is an alternative to insight ...."

You might have added the word "crucial" in front of "alternative" - without an ability and willingness (however grudging) to follow basic direction from others more experienced than ourselves, most of us would not have survived the first few years - and the post-adolescent years would certainly have been lethal!

and finally, Wheeler's critical insight:

"Our whole problem is to make the mistakes as fast as possible."

I have for much of my adult life been involved avocationally in the problems of alcohol addiction. One of my mentors used to tell people who weren't quite ready to quit boozing ... "Don't buy your liquor in small bottles - buy great big ones. Get done as fast as you can." Some listened, many others didn't, but his point was precisely the same as Wheeler's, i.e., if you must go through Hell, tis better to do it as quickly as you can.

Great post, Georg ... thanks.

A rainy day here today (a welcome rarity). What a delight to read this excellent post. Thanks Georg. And thanks, Ed, for the comments which made it even better!

My childhood included three alcoholics: Dad, Mom and Step-dad. Needless to say, I spent my youth fishing and hiking. :)

"And thanks, Ed, for the comments which made it even better!"

Spot on, Eric. It is incredibly rewarding for a post's author to receive commentary that augments his points with horizon-broadening insights from a critically thinking, independent mind.

"without an ability and willingness (however grudging) to follow basic direction from others more experienced than ourselves, most of us would not have survived the first few years"

Had to step out but would like to finish. Given the three alcoholic parents, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to follow three experienced mentors: my two uncles who lived adjacent to us and the Dad of a good friend who lived down the road. Their wisdom and demeanor drew me to them like a moth to flame; and, being consummate gentlemen in every respect, they were happy to pass along their knowledge. God only knows what I would have become had they refused their eager young student.

Ed, I have to thank you.

Your point about faith is so important; people do not begin to understand how much we depend on faith - we receive proportionately far more guidance from faith than from thinking, even in trivial pursuits of everyday life.

Yes, Ed, "crucial" is in fact the word I had "mitgedacht", i.e. I had taken for granted in my thoughts.

As for alcohol see my comment to Eric.

My parents hardly drank alcohol, my mother had a kidney condition, and my dad got high on productive pursuits like maths or speaking seven foreign languages - and went to bed every night to fall asleep at once.

My parents were incredibly lenient with my habit of drinking alcohol at an early age - in those days in Germany, it was nothing out of the ordinary for a boy of 15 or 16 to drink alcohol, privately or in public.

Severe alcoholism was part of life for a German living in Poland, where my mother spent her childhood and youth in a butcher's family - that may explain her lenience.

Late in his life my dad disclosed that there may have been incidents of severe alcohol abuse in his familial environment. However, he never discouraged me to drink.

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