Categorization or labeling seems to be “hard-wired” in our brains; it appears to be the way we’re built.
We compare and contrast the elements of our existence and then group them, like with like. While it would be a fascinating to attempt to construct a “thought experiment” to see if we can even conceive of a different way to process existence, that may not be possible, and is not the point of this post.
This “musing” is about the importance of care and humility in the development and application of labels and categories we use... the process we call “discrimination”.
So, since the way we’re built requires us to “discriminate” in our thinking it follows that we must carefully and continually examine the criteria by which we discriminate between things.
The humility part is because my experience with my own self-centeredness and laziness tells me I’m going to screw this up now and again; and because everyone that I’ve met or heard of (with a single exception) has also screwed the process up, at one point or another.
So, care, because the labeling has consequences, humility, because we screw up, either because we're operating on incomplete information and we often misunderstand what information we do get, and, sometimes, we just get tired of processing and stick a label on something (or someone) without any further effort to “see” if it really fits.
These seem to me to be the most critical requirements and cautions related to effective thinking; defined (labeled) as the kind of thinking that tends to make us healthy, happy and free beings.
After all, “up” or “down” are pretty easy (within a gravitational field), and the accuracy of your labeling of those things is pretty easy to verify; if you’ve got it wrong, you’ll be given some unmistakable feedback in short order as you crash into something, or it crashes into you. So, for “Up” and “down” we have internal and external evidence to verify our understanding.
But, when we start looking at categories and labels such as “good” and “bad” or “right” and “wrong” or “true” and “false”, things less directly and physically connected to the basic forces operating in the world around us, things get tougher.
Since we “get” our labels for those things based on experience, authority (the shared experience and conclusions of others which we accept as credible) and analysis, doesn’t it behoove us to seek edifying experience, elicit sharing of experience, and practice rigorous analysis of the things we are told and the things we experience?
In other words, we must broaden and diversify our experience (get out of our comfort zones), study and involve ourselves in deliberate communities of learning and development, meditate, contemplate, debate, and like the instructions on the shampoo bottle say: repeat.
The alternative may be that we just keep on bashing on each other, targeting the abuse according to labels that may not even be “right” or “true”, and that ain’t “right”.