Why Not?

We Are Wrong, and We Like It by Hersh T.
November 4, 2009, 4:50 am
Filed under: Hersh

There is the idea of course that Carroll simply just wrote a children’s book. When one writes something, and someone else analyzes it, they bring all of their experiences, biases, and ideals with them. This affects their observations and reactions on such a fundamental level that the analyzer does not even realize this. When Carroll wrote this book, he had the ideas he wanted to convey, and if he didn’t we will never know. We will never truly know if what we are analyzing is true.

However, the thrill of discovering something new or intriguing, and the ability to be able to draw conclusions that make sense is something that we all wish to achieve. Matin Gardner, the annotater, does not know everything. His actions and annotations are solely based on an assumption that was based on an assumption that was based on an assumption and this continues on until we reach a final fact. This means that if one assumption was wrong then this overall equation is wrong. However, the knowledge and excitement we gain from making these educated guesses provides us with an invaluable skill. When we realize that what we are analyzing could truly be just a wild goose chase that makes absolutely no sense, it frees us.

If we walked up to Carroll and told him that we thought he was taking the idea of innocence, and destroying it, while proving that childhood can only last so long etc. what would he say?

Carroll has his experiences and his ideas that affected exactly what he wrote and why he wrote it. In the Annotated Alice, Martin Gardner tried to discover these “attributes.” However, his observations are truly the hard-core fact and physical properties of his life, this is not enough. It is true that everything we do is affected by our experiences. However, it is very very easy to hide what these “scars” do to us. We can see what happened but what we cannot see what really happened. If you get attacked by a dog, and your leg is ripped, and five years later someone notices that you have a scar on your leg from a dog then that is like us noticing that Carroll was a mathematician and so must have some mathematical analogy buried in the text. Say the dog was a bulldog, then the fact that it was actually a bulldog can be discovered and we can assume that you would have an aversion to bulldogs. However, if you, mentally, were suddenly scared of all dogs, we would not know that. Similarily we can deduce much about Carroll but we still will not be able to understand everything.

20 Comments so far
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That’s a good point.

Well, usually when a book is written, the author must spell everything out. They must pretend that the reader is a child. And, correct me if I am wrong, this is supposed to be a child’s story. So Carroll must be able to spell Alice’s emotions out and be able to explain her risks. This type of writing is exemplified in this book

But you had a good point.

Comment by Hersh T.

That’s a good point.

Well, I think the simple answer is that you cannot determine the risks of an individual. We can, however, determine our own. This could be compared to emotions: While we cannot know the emotions other people are feeling (though we can sometimes make an assumption based on appearance), we can know our own emotions.

So, risks are different for each person, and therefore cannot be determined by anyone except who is taking the risk.

How, then, do we analyze the risks Alice took if only she could truly know them?

But you had a good point.

Comment by Mike N.

That’s a good point

If we think about it, we can come to the conclusion that part of the risk is not knowing how powerful the result will be. It is very difficult to be able to determine what the risk will be and if it will be worth it or not. For example, the only reward that Alice could possibly imagine (if she was even thinking) was that of satisfying her curiosity.

To some people, satisfying one’s curiosity is much more important then to other people. How do we determine the risk in terms of individual people?

But you had a good point

Comment by Hersh T.

That’s a good point.

A negligible reward, in my opinion, would be a reward does not make up for the costs it took to obtain it.

For example, I would not drive 5 hours, spending $100 (for example) in gas, in order to pick up my $50 paycheck. That is a negligible reward, because I would end up losing $50.

So, a negligible reward is a reward that does not result in net profit (not necessarily financial profit).

But, when you are taking a risk, you cannot always know what the reward could be. So, how do you determine whether or not the risk is probably going to result in a profit?

But you had a good point.

Comment by Mike N.

That’s a good point

I think that when we decide that the reward is negligible then we can say that the risk is negligible. However, living in a house is a small risk for a HUGE reward. This type of relation allows for the idea of risk versus reward to come out more fully. My question is what is a negligible reward?

But you had a good point.

Comment by Hersh T.

That’s a good point. I got the idea to quote the definition of “risk” from Dictionary.com: “exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance.”

Now, like you said, this would mean anything and everything is a risk. By walking down the street you are taking the risk of being hit by a car, and by staying in your house you are taking the risk that your roof could collapse upon itself.

But in reality, we usually do not constitute walking down the street or staying in your home a real risk. So, at what point do we decide that a risk is negligible?

But, you had a good point.

Comment by Mike N.

Some very interesting points. We don’t know, and probably will never know, every detail that might have influenced the messages behind the story. Though we may be right about some of the analysis, we will never really know what’s right.

Though analysis is really just a pursuit for knowledge, as it has always been. On the grander scale, we experiment and study things for it is one of the many luxuries we enjoy with our high-capacity brains. Really, “we don’t know one tenth of one millionth of anything,” to quote Einstein (I believe that quote is right). We will probably never know much more.

None of us were ever Carroll (obviously) so we will never know exactly what was going through his mind at the time. We are all different.

But is that a reason for us not to try and find out?

Comment by Connor M.

Hahahah, I truly hope that this converstion was for nothing and I do not think it was. I learned many new things. But one thing that is still bugging me is the idea of risks in general. What constitutes a risk? We have been having this conversation and we have not taken the time to truly define what a risk is. Is a risk walking out into the street? Or is it jumping off a cliff? Obviously we can name the RISKS, but the risks(lower case) are always around us. Everything is a risk, and what is that payoff?

Comment by Hersh T.

That’s another good point. I didn’t think about that. That’s definitly true. And yes, sometimes the payoff does cloud the risk, like in the skydiving example you said.

So then, that goes back to the idea we said earlier: Are all risks/payoffs differnt, and therefore cannot be analyzed like we are attempting to? Hopefully not, because that would make this entire conversation useless, no? 🙂

Comment by Mike N.

Wow, you’re right. I had never thought about how the risks and payoffs could level off. This observation completely changes the argument. But, are there not HUGE risks that indeed, give off HUGE profits. Such as, skydiving. Indeed skydiving is a huge risk! However, if succeeded, it earns you the rush of jumping out of a plane, and of course, bragging rights for the rest of your life. My question is this, does the payoff, if it is big enough, cloud the risk?

Comment by Hersh T.

I believe so, yes. We can only take smaller risks when we are directly involved ourselves.

And after I think about, you’re right. Sometimes a smaller risk can result in a bigger payoff.

Sometimes though, there is a point where the risk is so large that the payoff ends up being negative, instead of positive. For example…

People drink alchol during celebrations like Christmas and New Years, and, in small amounts, it can be a good thing. So, you drank a small amount – taking a small risk – and the payoff was good. But, if you drink too much – taking a large risk – you could get very sick, or even die (a negative payoff, if you weren’t sure 🙂 ). So, is there a point when the size of risk and the payoff of the risk level-off and then fall to rock bottom?

Comment by Mike N.

Thank you 🙂 I appreciate it. If we indeed were at the point where a jump would save me from a terrorist I would be in a pickle, so I thank you. However, if we think about the risks in relation to the payoff, sometimes, in rare cases, the smaller the risk, the greater the payoff.

And wow, the idea that a risk is easier to take if you are not directly involves raises a good question. Often in the world, there are examples where if you are not directly involved then it is much easier to do things.

Similar to the book we read, the boys painted their faces, this allowed them to do much more that they could normally do? So does that mean that if you are involved then you are only able to take smaller risks?

Comment by Hersh T.

That’s a good point. Whether or not the risk is worth the payoff, of course, depends on what the risk and payoff is. If I have to jump 10 feet from one rooftop to another to retrieve my $1 bill, it is definitly not worth it. However, if I had to jump in order to save you from terrorists, then I would definitly do it.

We take the risks we take based on the importance of the payoffs. Therefore, the size of the risk is directly proportional to the importance of the payoff, right?

Now, let’s think about the military, for example. The government takes a risk by sending the military to perform a job. However, it is not their own lives they are risking, but the lives of the soldiers. Is it, then, eaiser to take a bigger, more dangerous risk if it does not directly involve yourself?

Comment by Mike N.

That is good point. But once again, drawing on the idea of moderation, who should we trust. The obvious ones, our family, friends, spouses, or the not so obvious ones, that could indeed be more protective. How are friends created? Taking a chance, and taking a risk. I am not saying that risks are bad, in fact, the greater the risk the greater the prize. But how big should the risk be? Is it worth the payoff?

Comment by Hersh T.

That’s a good point. To never just blindly accept what is told to you, that really stood out to me. However, if we just take that into consideration then do we blindly reject everything? Isn’t that a little bit extreme? Doesn’t the world need a little bit of trust?

Comment by Hersh T.

Well, I didn’t mean to say that we should REJECT everything, but rather, we should question it and make sure it is true before we accept it. You’re right, the world does need trust, we just have to be careful with who we give it to.

Comment by Mike N.

While when I first read the title, I thought to myself, “I don’t like being wrong at all!”, but I also agree with you Hersh. Very nice insight.

What Hagen said interested me, about “good is good because that is what we have been taught…” This is absolutly true. The Nazi Germans would kill an entire group of Jews, and then go right back to their wife and kids for dinner. Why? Because that is what the thought was ‘normal’ or right.

Now, I won’t get into that too much. I think that people around our age (15-16) start to realize that you cannot just accept what adults tell you is true. We have been taught to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day, but we were never told why. How is this different than when Hitler taught children to love him, sing songs about him, and say pledges to him? Now, don’t get me wrong, the Pledge is a great thing, but we should understand WHY we say it, not just say it blindly.

So, as the Duchess would say, the moral of my comment is that we should question everything we are told, and not blindly believe it as absolute fact.

Comment by Mike N.

Absolutely! Analysis of this, or any, story depends on the experiences of the reader, and the reader may interpret the story one way and the author have intended it another. I also like the point you brought up about “the thrill of discovering something new or intriguing” being something we all want to achieve. That is very true and probably is what drives the analysis of most stories. We all want to find our own points and have others accept, or at least consider, them. However, I am afraid you lost me with your dog analogy. Were you saying that without the same experiences we can only guess at Carroll’s intentions?

Comment by Susie C.

I like the point that you make about not knowing if what we are analyzing being true. Perhaps all the conclusions and deductions we have made about the book are actually just over-analysis. Maybe all of these assumed referencess that are in the book are actually just simple plot points. To give an example, some people have compared falling down the rabbit hole to death, but maybe in reality its just a method of starting out a simple childrens story. However I also agree with your point about there being a certain thrill of discovery to finding out about some of the deeper aspects of the story. The story wouldn’t be as entertaining without having the thrill of finding out what some of the hidden parts of the story are, but the idea of these reference not actually existing is an intriguing thought.

Comment by Rivu D.

I one-hundred percent agree with you Hersh. I, myself, have always believed that one’s perception is what ‘runs’ the world. We base our decisions, like you said, off of our experiences and usually on what is easier to believe. Most people are influenced by outside forces, mostly peep pressure. Most believe that good is good because that is what we have been taught. Is that true? Is the enemy, or evil, in the story really that bad? Most evil ‘heroes’ we encounter are actually doing the same thing that the good heroes are doing; protecting their people.

I will use Lord of the Rings, just because I enjoy it, and it is fresh in my memory. The leader of the evil forces, Sauron, is simkply attacking the men because the men want him destroyed. Is he not just protecting his people? He is just trying to save his people and recover what he has lost.

We see only the good because we identify ourselves with the men; we are not monsters(orcs). The orcs are seen as disgusting, but that is because the author/director wants us to not like them. We have to fall under the writer’s peer pressure, and what he wants us to believe. Are you above the influence?

Comment by Hagen F.

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