Attribution: Tom Hits Mary

excerpt from the book The Myth of Addiction, using Harold Kelley’s ANOVA model of attribution:

“Suppose we observe one day that Tom is hitting Mary, and that we have information available (of whatever type – observations, second-hand reports, stereotypes, prejudices etc.) about the pattern of consensus, consistency and distinctiveness surrounding this act.  For example, it is just Tom who hits Mary (low consensus), he seems to hit Mary quite often (high consistency) and he also hits other girls (low distinctiveness).  In these circumstances, we are likely to explain the event in terms of a negative property of Tom; he is aggressive, unpleasant, a bully, and so forth.

Imagine, however, that our information suggests high consensus (other children also hit Mary); high consistency (they hit her often); and these children are not generally noted for hitting other people (high distinctiveness). In these circumstances, we are likely to attribute the act to some disposition of Mary; perhaps for example there is something she repeatedly does that test everyone’s patience.  Whatever the truth of the matter, we are likely to attribute the behaviour to a negative property of Mary.”


consensus               HI           or           LO

consistency             HI           or           LO

distinctiveness         HI           or           LO

Using Kelley’s three dimensions, we have seen how the pattern LO, HI, LO leads to explanation in terms of negative attributions about Mary.  It is amusing and instructive to consider other alternatives, and to try and predict the type of explanation which might be forthcoming. Some patterns are quite easy, others are more subtle. For example, HI, LO, HI implies that there are particular situations in which Mary gets on everyone’s nerves (i.e. a person x situation interaction); and LO, LO, HI suggests that the incident was due to some unfortunate and unforeseeable circumstance.”

In reading this I can’t help but go back to a conversation I had with my friend Lauren yesterday. We were talking about being quick to pick out things in other people that annoy you. She says that we do that because we are the ones that possess that trait. Because we know so much about what it looks like, it is much easier for us to point it out in other people, and it annoys us, because we don’t like to have that behavior. Yet, instead of correcting it within ourselves, we pick apart other people. It’s a crisis of self-awareness.

This concept has been messing with me recently.

My friend Tim gave me an object lesson in this a couple weeks ago. I have a tendency to call other cars on the road parts of the male anatomy in a derogatory manner. I call this one car an asshole because he makes a mistake that I myself make all the time. Tim, who has known me since diapers, swiftly and confidently shares his observation that I recognize it so well because it’s my area of expertise; I know an asshole on the road when I see one. …

For the next 20 minutes I just sat there waiting for the light to change to a color that didn’t reflect my attitude, coming to a slow and painful realization that he was right… that I’m either the only one or the quickest one finding fault in these situations (low consensus)… that I do this quite often (high consistency)… that I tend to do this with a lot of people (low distinctiveness)… and to add to the ANOVA model (sorry, Kelley), that I seem to always do this strictly with people that possess traits very similar to mine (we’ll call this ‘high commonality’).

That’s a LO, HI, LO, HI, in case you’re counting, or in other words:

Nathan hits Mary with behind-the-back remarks because he sees his own negative traits in her, and this is his own passive-aggressive way of addressing dissatisfaction within himself as a person.

On health care


Health care is good, and everyone should have health care, just like everyone should have firefighters to rescue them from a burning building, and police officers to call when they feel threatened. It’s a basic building block of not only society, but of humanity. The poor and marginalized deserve it as much as the fortunate do. America is the only functional western society that seems to fail in making such a provision.

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Speaking for Boyd: A Defense of Open-Theism

This is a paper I recently wrote for “God and Freedom” one of my upper-level philosophy classes.  I’m still not entirely sure about my stance on divine foreknowledge on conjunction with human free will, but I figured picking a view and arguing for it was as good a place to start figuring it out as any.

The problem of reconciling libertarian free will with God’s sovereignty is one which many theologians and philosophers alike have been trying to solve for a long time.  It brings many different people to many different conclusions about how they will settle this difficult issue.  No view has brought as much theological and philosophical debate as much as open theism, which has become so polarizing that all other views are united into ‘classical theism’.  Gregory Boyd, a well known theologian and proponent of open theism, makes the case that the classical theist is wrong for interpreting scripture anthropomorphically (giving God human characteristics just for our ease of understanding, even though He is ultimately beyond understanding), and that it is more beneficial to simply read scripture for what it is at face value. He cites examples for verses that appear to say that God had unfulfilled expectations (Isaiah 5:4), or that God is not sure what humans will freely choose (Jeremiah 3:19-20).  The classical theist counters this argument by presenting verses like Acts 2:23, where it directly mentions God having both foreknowledge and control of future events.  Boyd does not seem to have a response to this, though I believe there is a certainly a response to be made.  In this essay, my goal is to use the Acts 2:23 counter-argument of classical theism to the advantage of Boyd to show that God’s having foreknowledge of a future event is simply a result of His divine intervention to predetermine that situation, and is therefore fully compatible with the open-theism view.

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