More Secondhandedness Examples

More examples of secondhandedness thoughts/questions (with links) contrasted with rational/reality-oriented thoughts/questions.

Also, for a long form analysis of a great example of second-handedness, read this whole post.

Secondhanded thought Better thought
You shouldn’t claim you’re the best philosopher; you might be proven wrong and embarrassed. I’d love to be proven wrong and learn about someone better than me.†
I should post a bunch of candid moments of my children on Facebook because they’re cute and people will like them. Is getting Facebook likes a good goal? And does my child have any right to privacy?
I want it to appear to others that I am a fast learner.  I want to actually learn stuff quickly and well.
Am I an imposter or fraud, despite being recognized as a successful person? Am I objectively good at what I do?
Will other people judge me for not learning FI? Would learning FI serve my life and values?
What solution to this programming problem does the interviewer want? What solution to this programming problem would work?
Am I coming off as weird or autistic in continuing to talk about this topic? Do I want to continuing to talk about this topic?
Do some prestigious people say Ayn Rand and Sam Harris have similar ideas? Are the ideas of Sam Harris and Ayn Rand actually similar?

†Elliot Temple, in a July 2, 2013 Fallible Ideas email, subject line “Psychology of a Pretzel” (no longer directly linkable online because Yahoo took down its archives), said “I’d be fucking thrilled. If someone could prove me wrong, I would learn something and thank them. And it’d be something particularly useful. Please tell me who is better that I missed. I will read their stuff and get in touch with them. That’d be amazing.” 🙂

Vague Standards & Second-handedness

If you’re unclear or vague about what your standard of evaluating something is, that can make it easier to act in second-handed ways while denying to yourself that that’s what you are doing.

People typically don’t want to admit they’re just trying to pander to others. Objectivism is particularly strong and clear on the issue of second-handedness, but it being a bad idea to live for the approval of others is a common enough idea in mainstream culture. Being vague on how they are judging things can help people to live a life of pandering.

Below is a list of vague standards, the second-handed standard that the vague standard may be hiding, and an alternative standard of evaluating things that’s more focused on objective value and on what an individual person might want for themselves.

One thing I thought of while writing the “Second-handed standard” descriptions was that other people don’t actually “think” and “consider” their second-handed opinions in the full and proper meaning of those words. It’s like Toohey said: “A world where the thought of each man will not be his own, but an attempt to guess the thought in the brain of his neighbor who’ll have no thought of his own but an attempt to guess the thought of the next neighbor who’ll have no thought—and so on, Peter, around the globe.” The process he’s describing isn’t really thinking or considering. I’m not sure how else to describe what’s happening though.

Vague standard Second-handed standard Alternative standard
A nice place to live A place others will approve of & think is appropriate A place that I’ll like and that is near things I care about
A nice meal A meal that will impress others and appear “fancy” A meal that I will enjoy and that is within my budget
A desirable partner A partner whose is considered attractive and of appropriate social station by others A partner who shares my values and interests
A good school A school with a name that will impress people who hear it and cause them to think I’m smart A school with excellent teachers in the field I want to study
A notable author An author who other people consider noteworthy An author whose writings and ideas are worthy of note according to my own judgment
A good book A book that other people say is good A book that I think is good based on my own judgment
A good career A career that will impress other people and be considered respectable A career that I love doing
A fun time A way of spending time that everyone else said is fun A way of spending time that I considered fun
A good man A man considered to be good according to conventional standards A man I consider good according to my own standards

UPDATE: I should note that a proximate cause of this post was this Brittany Venti video where she criticizes euphemistic language that people use to describe selling online pornography (or what she considers prostitution). I thought she had a good point in that people describe pornographic photos as “just photos” and drop the context of what they’re photos of and the nature of the satisfaction the photos are providing. They would feel more negatively about the “photos” if they stated the full context, but by keeping their mind fuzzy they can lie to themselves about the nature of the activity they’re participating in/endorsing.

Second-handed questions vs. rational questions

Roark in The Fountainhead:

“That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They’re concerned only with people. They don’t ask: ‘Is this true?’ They ask: ‘Is this what others think is true?’

“Is this what others think is true?” has many forms. The following are attempts to capture the essence of the linked second-handed example in question form, and present an alternate, rational question – a form of “Is this true?” – that could be asked instead. The examples are drawn from this thread.

Second-handed question Rational question
Is he peer reviewed? Do his ideas make sense?
Who does he think he is (to disagree with everyone)? Do his arguments make sense?
Do people recognize this person as bad? Is this person bad according to some objective standard?
Can I ignore this person due to their low status? How should I engage with this person in light of my own values and goals?
Is this game popular?  Is this game fun (according to some rational standard)?
What meals would look good on my instagram?  What meals would I enjoy eating?
Are prestigious people using this app? Will this app help me achieve some goal or value of mine?
What coat would people approve of?  What coat would keep me warm?
What will people think of the increasing deaths? How can we keep people alive?
Will people think I’m being alarmist about the virus? Is the virus a serious threat to the lives of millions of people?