“All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” is the sensational title of a book of essays. I haven’t read it, and this post is not about that. The more common variant of this is more like “All I Really Need To Know I Learned By Age 15”. In fact, most widespread is an implicit position – “All I Really Need To Know I Learned By Yesterday”.
Yes,but-ism is one of the mechanisms through which we cling to yesterday’s beliefs. A tendency to a habitual “Yes, but …” reaction as the first line of defence should set off alarm bells in a watchful mind, for potential belief-updates are being summarily blocked. Assuming that the Yes,but-ist is not bigoted, under what conditions then is he/she going to update his/her beliefs? I think that some Yes,but-ists wait for “Aha!” moments to update their beliefs of yesterday.
I first came across the Aha! terminology several years ago when I was reading about Gestalt therapy. I reproduce here an extract from Baker-Sennett & Ceci(1996)/Abstract:
“The most basic premise of Gestalt psychology suggests that the task of human perception and thinking involves the organization and recognition of patterns in the environment (see Koffka, 1935; Kohler, 1947; Wertheimer, 1959 and reviews by Epstein, 1988; Ohlsson, 1984a; 1984b). Kohler, Wertheimer, and others argued that at some point while searching for a solution, the problem is spontaneously restructured, a pattern comes in to perspective, and the problem is solved. Upon arriving at a problem solution, the solver experiences an immediate feeling of correctness otherwise known as an “AHA!” experience.”
The story of the discovery of the Archimedes’ principle, and Kekule’s inspiration for the structure of benzene come to mind as outstanding examples. But it is a tall order to fundamentally expect Aha! moments to trigger belief-updates. Registration of something as profound vs. commonplace is actually a trait of the labeler’s mind, not of the phenomenon being studied. Just to cite one example, what Tesla presumably considered profound and important enough to dedicate his life to pursue, are now a few “ho-hum”, “banal” chapters in an engineering textbook, presumably not possessing the potential to inspire an Aha! experience for many Yes, but-ists.
Aha! moments are few and far between, and furthermore are functions of the Yes,but-ists’ minds rather than the subject matter. (On top of that, people tend to ascribe low Aha!-potential to a phenomenon – even a complicated one – that has already been explained, even if they don’t understand the explanation, and regardless of if the original explanation-quest happened through historical, momentous Aha! moments.) The entirety of painstakingly accumulated collective knowledge on the other hand is out of our bounds owing to its sheer overwhelming vastness; even if we were to constantly strive to update our beliefs of yesterday through proactive bromidic means – let alone wait for the luxury of Aha! moments.