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Chrysalis of an Idea

Radical Honesty is one of those ideas that a lot of young thinkers try on for awhile; it seems like getting all of society to dispense with the dishonesty would eventually solve many social problems. It has a more grown counterpart; what I'd call "appreciation in the abstract".

The problem with radical honesty is that it goes the wrong way. It's hard enough having people mesh well together with observed complexity. Inner complexity of people tends to be even broader, and is often inconsistent or complicated. Explaining inner complexity is a very high bar for general society, it's best reserved for relationships, and even there not to the fullest extent possible. Does every little doubt or gripe need to be broadcast?

Appreciation in the abstract is based on the data one would see were people radically honest, but it is an acceptance of fragility and complexity rather than a demand to be exposed to it. We accept the quirkiness of the behaviour of others without always demanding an explanation, and we have a sufficiently weathered understanding of human nature that we are (hopefully) better at figuring out when something is a real problem that must be dealt with.

Perhaps the way we actually get it is some combination of:

  1. Reading the unawares writings of others
  2. Reading the blogs and novels of sufficiently introspective people
  3. Introspection ourselves
The broad idea is an appreciation of human nature in all its complexity, replacing early views that humanity is simple or easily summarised with a lot of data in a rich framework of human variety and similarity and desire. For example, at some point we move past an abstract appreciation of this to a practical one: that people often make statements that are not true or false so much as forward-looking (particularly when talking about whether something should work, or what their emotions are, or so on). This category blurs smoothly with truth, and in public statements usually people won't initially know whether someone is telling the truth or making such a statement (or to what degree), that the speaker initially would often have a tough time telling, and that the speaker might eliminate this distinction when looking back on an event, turning it into a truth or lie. In general, I think this is a way youth and adults (or perhaps those who have not reflected sufficiently and those who have) differ in their treatment of human nature; an understanding of uncertainty and false certainty and the like.